Oct. 16, 2013

This week is a one of revelation, bringing quite a few story arcs to their satisfying conclusion and starting a few new ones.  Justice League of America reveals a major secret, Batman/Superman ends its first storyline with unique style, and Supergirl picks up after a “Who Shot J.R.” style cliffhanger dangled over two months worth of issues.  Meanwhile, Forever Evil: Rogues Revenge kicks off this month with its first issue and Batman & Robin emerges from a slew of guest stars with a five issue Two-Face “team-up.”  An awesome week to be sure, so let’s jump into it.

  • Justice League of America # 8 answers the question of what happened to the three Justice Leagues.  Since the beginning of Forever Evil the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 claimed that they had killed the Justice League.  The vision of the world’s saviors defeated at the hands of a superior foe has robbed humanity of hope.  But as this issue opens Stargirl and Martian Manhunter awaken in an open field with only blue skies and green grass as far as the eyes can see.  As they move through it they realize that what they are in is a state-of-the-art prison, but how it works and to what end remains obscured.  Traversing the prison, Manhunter discovers that all League members are in fact alive and penned in very specialized cells that cater to their inherent weaknesses.  Wonder Woman, the Mighty Amazon, is forced to fight a pointless, neverending battle against humanity and her Amazonian sisters to save the lives of the two men she loves, Col. Steve Trevor and Superman.  Captain Marvel, a young boy living in the body of a titan, is placed in a city where the massive destruction he incurs in his superheroics immediately right themselves, even the slain immediately resurrecting.  For a little boy with infinite strength and a victim complex this scenario is intoxicating.  Flash, the Fastest Man Alive, is trapped in his apartment subject to the whims of his imagination, thinking he is going faster than ever when really he barely moves.  Superman, the noble Last Son of Krypton also called “the Boy Scout” by Batman, is weighed down by guilt over supposedly killing his teammates and attempts to fly fast enough to break the time barrier.  Simon Baz, Iraqi-American and fifth Green Lantern of Earth, is a man with great anger and resentment at the social injustice leveled at himself, his family, and his people.  Martian Manhunter’s mental abilities allow him to verify that each person is genuine and not delusions or elaborate hoaxes.  Writer Matt Kindt is given the honor of revealing one of the biggest secrets of Forever Evil, and tantalizes with juicy details that cut deep to the psyches of each character.  I mentioned the inherent weaknesses of the characters, but those weaknesses do not include kryptonite or the color yellow, etc.  Each of the Justice Leaguers has a weakness in their character and exploiting those weaknesses is a more sustainable restraint than their physical limitations.  So the Justice League and Justice League of America are both alive and being held in a customized super-prison.  This reveals a lot, but raises more questions.  1) Why did the CSA leave them alive when they could have killed them and ended any future interference?  2) What is the prison and how does it work?  3) Why were Stargirl and Martian Manhunter left together in the prison and how does the field play into their ideal incarceration?  Matt Kind writes a hell of a Forever Evil tie-in to usher in Justice League of America’s involvement in the greater scheme of things.  Doug Mahnke continues art duties on the title after initial series artist David Finch moved over to the main Forever Evil book.  Mahnke has a talent for rendering very serious material with the subtleties of his art.  Considering the prison’s function of playing into internal flaws, Mahnke’s art, especially in the eyes and expressions of his subjects, effectively displays their delusional states and subsequent madness. Overall, Kindt and Mahnke provide a stellar issue cutting to the heart of the Earth-1 aspect of Forever Evil.

    The Mighty Amazon.

    The Mighty Amazon.

  • Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1 fulfills the promise of its title; the Rogues’ rebellion begins.  Brian Buccellato, cowriter of The Flash, has been writing the Rogues on and off for 28 issues.  The Rogues are compelling villains, because they have ironclad codes of honor that they rigidly adhere to.  That honor is what sets them apart from the “Evil that shall inherit the Earth.”  In this spinoff series of Forever Evil, the Rogues return to Central City after witnessing the Crime Syndicate’s rousing speech reprinted in almost every tie-in book.  What greets them is a city in ruin and mass carnage.  In the Gorilla Grodd Villains Month issue we saw the cause of the carnage.  Grodd was freed from the Speed Force and abhors the concept of gorillas and humans coexisting in peace.  When Solivar, leader of Gorilla City, tried to make amends for Grodd’s attack on the Gem Cities, Grodd comes back to finish the job he began.  Humans and gorillas are slaughtered wholesale.  However, many are left alive for other villains to finish off.  The Rogues prey upon Central City and Keystone City, but they DO NOT kill and they don’t steal from people who can’t afford it.  They also are VERY territorial and any violence leveled at their home is tantamount to a declaration of war against them.  So when they find most of the Gem Cities’ police force chained to trees they let them loose, but assert right from the start that they will work with the police, but will not cow to them.  After the events of the Rogues issue during Villains Month, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider and younger sister of Captain Cold, fell deeper into a coma after overexerting her astral form to free her lover, Mirror Master, from his Mirror World prison.  Cold took over leadership of the Rogues after this and her safety became the primary concern of all members henceforth.  So when they visit her bedside in the hospital and the Crime Syndicate’s lackeys come forward to enact Central City’s destruction they show their true colors and give their fellow “villains” a show.  The ending of this issue was heralded before in Forever Evil #2 with the dispatch of Deathstorm (evil Firestorm of Earth-3) and Power Ring (sort of evil Green Lantern from Earth-3) to put down their rebellion.  Brian Buccellato is ridiculously on with this first issue, proving that he understands quintessentially the logos of these anti-heroic figures of comic lore.  The Rogues aren’t bad per se, but their ignominy stems from the tenacious drive they have to achieve their goals and resist anyone or anything that would stop them.  What’s more, they fight tenaciously while still holding fast to their sacrosanct code of honor.  There is a scene after they release the police when Lt. Singh, Barry Allen’s supervising officer, levels a gun at Heat Wave and the Rogue looks him in the eye and very calmly delivers a smooth warning that immediately gets the gung-ho officer to lower his weapon.  That thin line between ceding ground and seizing it is a gossamer thread that can make or break a Rogue story and Buccellato walks it like a pro.  The art of this issue is split between two artists, Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn.  Both artists worked with Buccellato last month on his Flash Villain issues, Zircher lending his art to The Rogues and Hepburn to Reverse Flash.  Zircher’s art was outstanding and very emotionally charged.  Hepburn’s fell flat in my opinion when juxtaposed so closely with the evocative pencils and inks of Zircher.  I didn’t mind his art in the Reverse Flash issue, and actually kind of liked it.  However, when so closely placed to such a different style, Hepburns art comes off far less realistic and more cartoonish, and considering the somber tone of the book, that is NOT conducive to the readers immersion in the plot.  Overall though, it was a phenomenal issue and one not to be missed.

    Don't Mess With Fire Or You'll Get Burned.

    Don’t Mess With Fire Or You’ll Get Burned.

  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #24 is the middle mark of the epic “Lights Out” storyline happening throughout the Green Lantern titles.   Oa, center of the universe and ancient homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps, has been destroyed by the ancient being known as Relic, leaving the Green Lantern Corps homeless and in exile.  Former Green Lantern and current White Lantern Kyle Rayner also finds himself reeling from the loss of Oa.  However, in the wake of this tragedy the errant entities of the various lights simultaneously possess him and bend him to their will.  Kyle had previously played host to Ion, entity of Will, and Parallax, entity of Fear, and been able to assert himself with difficulty, but with five of the seven infesting him at once there is no shaking them off.  However, while his incarceration is unpleasant, it does shed light on what is going on with the entities and the universe’s reservoir of light.  Justin Jordan has been helming this title since the apocalyptic events of “Wrath of the Last Lantern” concluded Tony Bedard’s run and his issues have really put the weight of the world on poor Kyle’s shoulders.  If you are a fan of Kyle Rayner, as I am, this issue and its immediate predecessors paint a very epic picture of the artist’s role in maintaining cosmic equalibrium.  Justin Jordan picks up from Robert Venditti and Van Jensen and passes the story to Charles Soule for Red Lanterns #24 with no loss of momentum.  Truly amazing.
  • Batman & Robin #24 opens with a fly landing on a sleeping Two-Face’s bad eye, which never closes when he sleeps.  Waking up, he puts a gun to his head.  By page 2 writer Peter Tomasi has already established a haunted version of the binary bad guy.  Then the story shifts to Batman and the GCPD breaking skulls to find details on the imminent return of an infamous Gotham mobster that has been running the Irish gangs remotely from numerous safe houses around the world: Erin McKillen.  She comes into town for a very important summit with all Gotham City families to determine the future of organized crime in a city plagued with “freaks.”  McKillen is told that she is going to be the one to start the ball rolling by offing Two-Face, the man she created.  Cut to a flashback of that fateful moment years ago.  Harvey Dent wakes in his office, strapped to his desk top, his wife Gilda dead on the floor with a letter opener in her chest, and Erin McKillen wearing Gilda’s clothes.  Mocking him, she pours acid on his face to show Gotham “what a two-faced son of a bitch [he] is.”  Despite the agony he breaks some glass with his shoe and saws the ropes holding him down, freeing himself, then holds his wife one last time and kisses her with his wrecked face.  Again, the characterization and the haunted nature of Harvey Dent is beautifully portrayed by Tomasi and visually rendered by Tomasi’s long time collaborator, Patrick Gleason.  No doubt there is more here than meets the eye, but there is a compelling pathos that accompanies Harvey through his portions of this month’s issue.  Like most villains examined during Villains Month, he has his overwhelming darkness that compels him into acts of villainy, but underneath the emotional (and in this case physical) scarring there is a human being.  Following the death of Damian Wayne, Tomasi has changed the title of the series month after month to accommodate his partner du jour.  Each only last a month and he moves on to the next team up.  This issue begins a five month Batman & Two Face arc.  The two Gotham City strong men might not work together directly, but there goals are the same: taking down Erin McKillen and making her face justice in some way for the heinous acts she has committed against Gotham City.  Will it be in the judicial system or at the end of a knife?  Tomasi knows what he’s doing, so I impatiently await the answer.

    The Death of Love.

    The Death of Love.

  • Batman/Superman #4 brings to an end the series’ first arc and also illuminates the opening arcs of both Justice League and Earth 2.  This first arc brings pre-Justice League #1 Batman and Superman together and sends them to Earth-2 where they meet their older, more established selves.  One thing writer Greg Pak really highlighted well in the past three issues is just how different the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmen and Supermen are.  One of the things I personally hated about Superman in the initial Justice League issues was how “in your face” he was and his lack of control.  Superman should be all about restraint and moderation.  The same can be said about Geoff Johns’ Batman from those same initial Justice League books that ushered in the New DCU.  Batman always is dark and brooding, but he’s intelligent and analytical about it, not confrontational and snarky without cause.  That is precisely how Greg Pak explores these two characters.  The Earth-1 iterations of the characters as they were first depicted by the misguided pen of Johns are juxtaposed against the characters as they should be, now relegated to Earth-2.  The most poignant example of this is Earth-1 Supes (whose adoptive parents died when he was in high school) meeting Earth-2 Superman and the elderly Kents.  The Kents note that Earth-1 Superman has a foul mouth and lacks patience.  Earth-2 Batman has a field day picking apart Earth-1 Batman, as does the otherwordly Batman’s wife, Catwoman.  Last issue the Apokaliptian demon named Kaiyo told the Supermen, Batmen, and Earth-2 Wonder Woman and Catwoman that this world’s military have obtained a giant crystal shard with supernatural abilities to alter reality.  This weapon was made to combat Superman, but Kaiyo says it can be used to combat a greater threat that is imminent.  Darkseid.  The Earth-2 Superman and Batman want it destroyed.  Earth-1 Superman and Batman want to save it.  Their initial desires and the people they are ultimately dictate their respective fates and eventual dooms.  The arc was rife with dichotomies between Batman and Superman and between different versions of themselves.  Greg Pak comes into the game late, but takes what has been done shoddily in the past and makes it work toward a larger purpose.  His rendering of imperfect characters is thoughtful and highly entertaining, but raises the question of what he will do in his next arc which looks to take place in a post-Justice League #1 continuity when both Batman and Superman were written better and when, as characters, they began to respect one another.  Also worth mentioning is the breathtaking art by Jae Lee.  Lee’s rendering of characters is very ethereal in the emotionless expressions he imbues them with and a look of effortlessness in everything they do, no matter how incredible.  Considering the clash of titans this arc depicts, Lee is the quintessential choice for it.  Four issues in and this has become a must read series.

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

  • Batwoman #24 is a bittersweet issue marking the premature departure of writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman from the title.  Initially when they decided to leave they were going to write through issue #25 to end the overreaching arc they had begun.  This issue marks the actual end of their run, one issue shy of their intended end.  And what a cliffhanger they left . . .  Since the beginning of the “Weeping Woman” arc in early 2012 Batwoman, a.k.a Kate Kane, has been on the hook by the D.E.O. chief, Director Bones, and his underling Agent Cameron Chase.  Since the mid 90’s when J.H. Williams III worked on the series Chase the D.E.O. (Department of Extranormal Occurrences) has been looking for the holy grail of secrets in the superhero world: the identity of the Batman.  They have tried everything and always come up short.  Batwoman becomes their ace in the hole.  With a vulnerable member of the Bat-family in their pocket they have the means to finally blow that secret wide open.  Chase learns that Col. Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father) armed his daughter with military equipment and later they get their hands on Kate’s twin sister, Beth, a.k.a Alice.  Williams and Blackman have been building toward this moment for twenty issues and the moment has finally come.  Bones has unleashed renegade Batman villains on Gotham as a massive diversion while Batwoman gets in close.  In the meantime Jacob, Betty a.k.a Flamebird (Kate’s cousin and sidekick) and a select team of operatives infiltrate the D.E.O. safe house where Beth is being held.  Beth is on the verge of being rescued and Batwoman sucker punches Batman, but good.  This issue ends in the perfect way to set up a MASSIVE finale to a storyline looooong in the making, only for the writers to be driven from their title.  Also distressing is the off-putting of the conclusion to December with the last minute inclusion of Batwoman to the “Blackout” event throughout the DCU.  As a Gothamite her involvement does make a modicum of sense.  November marks the regime shift of relief writer Marc Andreyko and artist Jeremy Haun.  J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are two incredible writers and Williams a peerless artist.  The loss of both could be catastrophic to this must-read title.  In my opinion this distressing possibility is augmented by the awful job Andreyko did on the Sword of Sorcery backup feature “Stalker.”  The original story created and written by Paul Levitz in the 70’s was amazing.  Andreyko’s was version was horrendous to read and completely without point.  His ability to pick up where greater minds have left off remains highly questionable.  We’ll see what November holds for Batwoman.

    Battle of the Bats.

    Battle of the Bats.

  • Supergirl #24 is one of the October issues screaming for release after the shock ending of August’s Supergirl #23. Supergirl had found herself on a constantly morphing colony of hive-minded mechanized organisms called the I’Noxia.  These machines are benign in nature, but forced to cooperated with the Collector (Brainiac) and his creation, the Cyborg Superman.  Supergirl is dying from Kryptonite poisoning after the “H’el on Earth” crossover in the Super-books. The I’Noxians offer her haven by computerizing her intelligence in exchange for Cyborg Superman gaining custody of her body and using her Kryptonian flesh to reconstitute his missing parts, returning his former body, but also the missing memories of his identity.  She resists and he takes what he wants by force.  He gets his body and his memories back and lo and behold . . . he’s Zor-El.  Kara’s father!  Upon regaining his memories and his mind he is immediately struck with horror at what Brainiac’s programming made him do.  In September the Cyborg Superman issue of Action Comics revealed the connection between Zor-El and Brainiac and how he came to be made into the Cyborg Superman.  Zor-El is a good man, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  And in this issue a father’s love takes him once again down the road to Hell.  Kara can live again.  The I’Noxians have the technology to reconstitute her, but that would require the rebirth of the Cyborg Superman.  Writer Michael Alan Nelson writes a compelling version of Zor-El, eldest son of the House of El, and dedicated scientist.  His love of his family and his people forced him to seek help in the most dangerous places if even the slightest chance of survival exists.  Ending this issue, Kara comes face to face with the cosmic entity known as the Oracle, heralding the beginning of the “Krypton Returns” storyline beginning with Action Comics Annual #2. After the lead ins to this event dropped in both Superman #0 and Supergirl #0 last September I have been waiting on pins and needles to see the resolution as to how Superman and Superboy could have been on Krypton prior to its destruction.  In a little over a month we will have the answer.

    Behold the Oracle.

    Behold the Oracle.

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #24 brings about the final showdown in ‘Eth Alth’eban between the League of Assassins, guardians of the Well of Sins, and the Untitled, ancient embodiments of evil born from the Well. Jason has been chosen to be the leader of the League and fights to stave off the assault that could result in the end of all things. Jason proves to be an adept disciple of the Batman, exhibiting the same ingenuity and resolve against forces far beyond his measure.  Indeed, that is most likely why the League chose him as their leader.  On the other side of fight, Roy Harper also is shown in a revealing light.  Previously, Roy helped the Untitled breach the impenetrable walls of ‘Eth Alth’eban under the understanding that he would be freeing Jason from a pack of vipers (which the League of Assassins are) and saving the world.  That last part wasn’t true at all, which he realized too late.  However, in his moment of reflection on his deteriorating relationships with Jason and Starfire he manages to capture the sympathy and last throbs of human compassion in the heart of the assassin, Cheshire, who in previous DC iterations was the mother of his daughter, Lian.  James TynionIV’s writing of this series is pretty good, although admittedly he has a long way to go to measure up to his predecessor and the series’ creator, Scott Lobdell.  Lobdell created the Untitled, so Tynion’s wrapping up of the fabled cabal begs the question of what Lobdell’s original intentions were for them.  Other than that, the issue comes off very well and reintroduces a venerable figure in Batman lore to the New 52.  Julius Gopez continues his phenomenal work as artist on the series, adding weight and substance to the Tynion’s scripts though his very expressive artwork.  Every emotion is blatant in his lines immediately immersing the reader in the agony and ecstasy of the book’s cast of characters.  Definitely and enjoyable book and a series worth picking up.

    The Heart of Chesire.

    The Heart of Chesire.

  • Vibe #8 dives head first into the wellspring of Cisco Ramon’s powers.  Vibe, as he’s been called, got his powers when he was caught in the event horizon of an Apokaliptian Boom Tube during Great Darkseid’s invasion of our world.  As a result he is attuned to extradimensional vibrations and able to sense and counteract beings from other dimensions.  Up to this point his powers were uses to detect intruders and refugees from other planes and if necessary, combat them.  After being wounded and sucked out of our dimension he begins leaking that energy the Boom Tube endowed him with, hurtling him from dimension to dimension with no control.  In the background as he cascades through all existence are little easter eggs from the two year run of the New DCU, including the recent fight between Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Bruutal on Earth-2, the Phantom Zone, President Superman from Earth-5, and the gemworld of Nilaa that we last saw in the now cancelled Sword of Sorcery title.   It is while defending Princess Amethyst from the Quartz Hordes that the enigmatic figure called Breacher finds Cisco and puts a patch on his wound that stabilizes his dimensional radiation.  He takes Vibe to his own world, Piradell, and tells of the history that lead to its subjugation by the despotic Queen Mordeth and how that ties back to the same event that gave Cisco his powers.  At the same time that Cisco was imbued with interdimensional energies the Boom Tube collapsed on his elder brother, Armando.  They always assumed that Armando died, when he actually became a creature like Cisco and upon landing on Piradell gave Mordeth the means to subjugate that world.  Now Breacher and Cisco need to save Piradell, Armando who is under the thrall of Mordeth, and Mordeth’s daughter, Gypsy.  Sterling Gates has done the seemingly impossible, making Vibe a good character.  His original iteration in the Justice League Detroit comics was a joke at best.  Now he is substantial, thoughtful, and endowed with a sense of consequence in the larger scheme of the emerging DC multiverse.  Back in the day, the Flash was the keymaster to the multiverse, having the ability to vibrate though realities from Earth to Earth.  While Flash still has that ability, Vibe is pretty much made to solely be the custodian of opening the gates off our Earth, but also keeping those that breach from remaining.  With that in mind, and with the multiverse slowly blooming in emerging DC plots, Vibe is a character to watch.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman's Capitol.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman’s Capitol.

  • Pandora #4 opens in the aftermath of Forever Evil #1 with Pandora, who was present when the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) opened the box that bears her name, finding herself transported to a desolate world littered with bones.  Earth-3.  The Birthplace of Evil.  The only living thing she encounters is the blind and mortally wounded J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) of that reality.  Through his rhetoric she become aware that the Crime Syndicate intend to do to our Earth what they did to this one.  When she returns to Earth-1 she hatches a plan.  First she entrusts a friend with the mission of reforging Pandora’s Box from the shattered remnants left after it opened the portal to the place of its birth, letting the CSA into our dimensional plane.  The next step is getting her OLD friend Vandal Savage to give her the means to infiltrate the Secret Society meeting in order that she can get at the man known as the Outsider.  What she intends to do with him remains up in the air, but that only ropes the reader into buying next month’s issue.  I’ve made no secret that I am not a fan of the writing style of this series’ writer, Ray Fawkes, but it can’t be denied that this issue is very well done and an integral tie-in to the overarching Forever Evil event going on throughout the DCU.  Series artist Francis Portela is always a delight with his lush artwork that has been seen in Legion of Superheroes (LONG LIVE THE LEGION!) and last month’s Killer Croc issue in the Batman & Robin title.  Whether the success of this issue is predicated on Fawke’s writing or the tent pole Forever Evil plotline remains to be seen, but until that event wraps in March this series will no doubt carry its weight in realizing the full measure of Earth-3 and absolute evil.

And there you have it.  An awesome week of comics that overall exceed the mark of this comic book geek.  Here’s hoping next week measures up the same.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League of America #8:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering.

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1:  Art by Patrick Zircher, Colored by Nick Filardi.

Batman & Robin #24:  Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batman/Superman #4:  Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung.

Batwoman #24:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major.

Supergirl #24:  Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Guy Major, Inked by Marc Deering.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24:  Drawn by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Hi-Fi, Inked by Walden Wong & Ray McCarthy.

Vibe #8:  Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Mark Irwin & Marc

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Week 73 (Jan. 23, 2013)

This week is shaping up to be a juggernaut.  So many incredible titles are coming out in so many amazing events: “Death of the Family”, “Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army”, “Before Watchmen”, “Throne of Atlantis”, and “H’el on Earth.”  Throw in Batwoman and Sword of Socery and you have a real party.  I am literally shaking with anticipation to crack the first book of this massive week.  So let’s not keep me waiting any longer:

  • Justice League #16 brings on part three of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  I have had a great deal of negative feedback on most of Johns’ current endeavors, and most notably in this title.  He’s bastardized a great deal of things and I stick to my previous opinions.  However, in this issue he returns to doing what he had done  so well prior to the Reboot.  This issue is rich in allusions to other DC characters and concepts, such as Dr. Magnus and the Metal Men, Dr. T.O. Morrow and Red Tornado, Tula of Atlantis, etc., reintroducing them in conversationally appropriate ways and with interesting new contexts.  What he also does is humanize all parties involved.  Though I don’t enjoy how nemish and shortsighted he’s made seminal characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, perhaps there is a realism within that is necessary to the execution of this very morally complex plot.  Conversely, what Johns did seven and a half years ago with Sinestro, making him not a straight out psychopathic villain but rather a complex antihero, he does in this series with Aquaman’s brother, King Orm, aka Ocean Master.  Stakes are high and tensions are at a breaking point.  This issue marks the halfway point and despite my aversion to this series, Johns has me hook, line, and sinker.  In the SHAZAM! backup feature Johns has progressed past the ludicrous beginnings of the series and entered into a new version of the Captain Marvel mythology that is both rich and nuanced.  I really enjoyed this one, actually.  Although, Billy does revert back to his child self at the end, which could mean a return to the awful presentation of Billy Batson that Johns so unskillfully presented before.  My hope is that being in an adult’s body for even the short duration that four months of comics equates to will at least marginally mature him so we don’t have to witness his infantile crap for another slew of issues.  I have hope for this series after reading this issue, but retain the past failures of the series pragmatically within memory.

    Atlantis Rising!

    Atlantis Rising!

  • Batwoman #16 returns our protagonist to her hometown of Gotham as it descends into utter chaos with the advent of Medusa herself.  With Wonder Woman accompanying her, the duo this arc dubs the “World’s Finest” sets out to subdue Medusa’s mythological forces (complete with gargantuan Hydra) and rescue the children abducted by the mad gorgon.  Its all hands on deck.  Not only are Batwoman and Wonder Woman on the streets of Gotham, but most of the Gotham City Police Department led by Batwoman’s lover, Det. Maggie Sawyer, and DEO agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones.  In this penultimate chapter of the arc spanning storyline its all or nothing.  Batwoman has found Medusa and the missing children.  Medusa’s horrifying plot is revealed in full as she attempts to resurrect the literal “mother of all monster” into the mortal world with the sacrifice of the innocent children.  However it goes down, next issue is the end of this first overarching storyline and the end of Batwoman’s first real test as a Gotham City superhero.  J.H. Williams III does a stunning job rendering this story from an equally stunning script by W. Haden Blackman and himself.  I don’t know if I will be able to wait until February to find out the end of this conflict that has almost been two years in the making.

    The Mother of All Monsters

    The Mother of All Monsters

  • Green Lantern #16 picks up with Simon Baz after learning the truth behind the bombing he was framed for and the appearance of B’dg, Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  The stunning revelation last issue was that the Green Lantern Corps is aware of the Guardians of the Universe’s plot to destroy free will throughout the universe with their Third Army.  B’dg comes to Earth seeking Hal Jordan, the greatest of their number, to enlist his aid in stopping their masters from realizing their mad scheme.  To his dismay, the ringslinger he finds is not only a rookie, but inherited his ring from Sinestro and Hal, both of whom have disappeared.  Baz is needed regardless if the Corps is going to stand a chance against the Guardians.  Before he can leave, he has things to attend to on Earth and despite B’dg’s impatience, Baz proves himself to be a Green Lantern like no other as well as possessing an incredible amount of will, on par with all of his Earth lantern brothers.  Another awesome issue from Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.
  • Green Lantern Corps #16 unites the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles in anticipation of next week’s Green Lantern Corps Annual #1.  Stripped of his ring and rank, Guy Gardner returns to Earth a broken man attempting to find a new purpose in life.  As with most things Guy does, he mismanages his actions and ends up being arrested . . . by his brother and sister.  While they are interrogating him in lock up, the Third Army attacks and takes out guards and inmates alike.  Its looking bleak for the Gardner siblings, but help is not far away in the form of Simon Baz, newest Earth Green Lantern, and B’dg, squirrel Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  With their aid a crisis is averted and Guy becomes aware of the Guardians plot and his being a casualty of it.  Elsewhere in the universe, John Stewart continues his mission with Fatality of the Star Sapphires to find the missing pieces of Mogo (the deceased planet GL) and reunite them so the slain Green Lantern can reform and become whole.  Though not much is revealed about this, the reformation of Mogo seems like it will have a great impact on events, but the fact that the Guardians willed it to happen portends ominous tidings.  I cannot wait to see what the Green Lantern Corps Annual next week has in store for us, the GL’s, and the universe in general.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #16 is one of those issues that you wait for for a very long time and once it arrives you swoon at its near perfection.  I have compared this second arc of the series after the “Ring Thief” arc that comprised its second year of publication as similar to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”  Indeed, with Kyle’s transmogrified ring he has the ability to channel all seven colors of the emotional spectrum.  From previous experience in Blackest Night we know that this convocation would lead to him becoming a White Lantern.  He’s obviously mastered Green, and has preternatural talent with Blue (hope) as we saw in New Guardians #0.  With the help of Atrocitus he’s mastered Red (hate), Arkillo with Yellow (fear), and the seeming lack of help from Larfleeze he’s tapped Orange (greed).  Indigo-1’s tutoring of Indigo (compassion) was glossed over, which not only doesn’t make sense, considering its immense power, it also undermines his having to do anything past that, taking into account that Indigo Lanterns (or Tribesman, if you will) can channel any emotion they are in contact with.  That all aside, Violet (love) is the last emotion that stands between Kyle and his complete mastery of the emotional spectrum.  However, Kyle is one that has been stunted in the love department for almost his entire life, finding it hard to vocalize, so this last hurdle is the most difficult for him to surmount.  And wouldn’t you know that this would be the time that Ganthet, his former mentor and now Guardian of the Universe gone mad, would arrive with his Third Army thugs to snuff out Kyle before he can become a threat.  The stakes in this series have never been so high and Kyle will either shine brighter than he ever has or be snuffed out like a candle in the wind.  Tony Bedard is a brilliant.  Period.  Aaron Kuder adds to this masterpiece issue with peerless pencils and inks.  I am bookmarking this issue in the annuls of my mind.
  • Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6 closes out the series and does so with crushing impetus.  The saga of the Minutemen, chronicled narratively and visually by the incomparable Darwin Cooke, has been one that cuts to the heart and character of its band of players.  Most of them were glossed over in the original Watchmen series by Alan Moore, but with DC’s exploration of the Before Watchmen line, each gets their overdue turn in the limelight.  Following the murder of the Silhouette and her long crusade to stop child predators and Nite Owl’s picking up of that crusade after her death events point to Hooded Justice, the most secretive Minuteman of the bunch, as the murderer and torturer of young children.  This issue is the final account that ties up the series and answers questions that has been lingering through several Before Watchmen series.  From the Ozymandias series “What happened to Hooded Justice, and why are the Comedian and the Government so keen to keep it a secret?”  From the Nite Owl series “What is the secret that is so damning that Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl (and main character in Minutemen), which he is so keen to keep hidden forever?”  This issue answers those questions and more in a truly terrifying and unbelievable sequence of events that will alter forever the way most readers look on the background cast of characters in Watchmen.  Darwyn Cooke’s prowess with a pencil and pen and his genius as a writer are unparalleled here and stand as an eternal monument to his place in comic book history.

    The End of an Era

    The End of an Era

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #16  returns to the Levitz-ian paradigm of storytelling with multiple stories and issues being put forward.  First on the docket, Chamelon Boy, Lightning Lass, and Shrinking Violet go to Takron-Galtos, the United Planets’ prison world, to check on the status of the Fatal Five member, Validus.  Since Legion of Super-Heroes #8 last April, the resurrection of the Legion’s most powerful group of antagonists, the Fatal Five, has been in the offing.  Bit by bit, evidence that they have been reforming in secret is being brought to light.  Validus, thought to be safely locked in a cube of inertron is one of the last pieces to the puzzle.  On the other side of the universe, at the Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 is busy trying to ascertain the cause of Glorith’s abduction last issue to Barcelona and the why and how of her causing a time rift, bringing forth denizens of that city from across its long history.  Lastly, and as an interim plot between these plo tpoints, the Legion election is drawing to a close and the Legionnaires debate amongst themselves who should lead the team as the votes are tallied to decided said leader.  This series is ironically one of the most realistic, because of the writing style of Paul Levitz, who gets that with a team of this size a lot of crazy things are going to happen simultaneously, and that with young heroes like these egos and hormones are going to stir things up.
  • Nightwing #16 brings the “Death of the Family” tie-in of this title to a close as it did in both Batgirl and Batman & Robin, with the Joker holding a platter in front of the title’s protagonist and the solicitation that a conclusion will come in Batman #17.  The twofold storyline of this title’s tie-in was really well played by writer Kyle Higgins.  Last month’s issue setup quite well an inventory of everything Dick Grayson had built up and the people whose trust he had earned.  Following the Joker’s reemergence and Dick’s realization that he had made them all targets, he did his best to cut ties and ferry everyone around him to safety.  This issue shows not only how great his failures are, but to what lengths the Joker would go to make a point and just how resourceful he can be.  One scene I think shows his attention to detail at its most nightmarish +throughout the entire line of Batbooks.  Admittedly the human tapestry in Batman #16 was gruesome, but pales in comparison to the detail and and scope of his carnival show at Haly’s.  Like Tim, Jason, and Damian, Joker really gets to the heart of what should be Dick’s main strengths and shows how they are really his greatest weaknesses. For Dick it’s his compassion and interpersonal nature.  So much of what he worked his entire life to build could very well burn down in the space of a single evening.  I have no idea what the title holds after the final page of Batman #17 and the first several pages  of Nightwing #17, but I am going to be there for both.  Good ending or bad, I sense ill tidings for Haly’s and its owner, the benighted Nightwing.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 crosses over with Teen Titans as the Outlaws (Starfire and Roy Harper) team up with the Titans to find their respective teammates (Jason and Tim) who were kidnapped by the Joker and brought to Gotham.  Both series are written by Scott Lobdell, who clearly is more than qualified to execute this crossover.  The issue in fact reads more like a Teen Titans issue than a Red Hood issue.  In fact, they don’t actually show Jason or Tim once in this issue.  Jason’s red hood yes, but not the man who wears it. Most of the issue is Roy and Starfire hauling the Titan’s “turkey out of the fire” as they fumble to fix the fallout from the Joker’s trap the Titans fell into, and the aforementioned teens being really angsty and resentful for it.  It is interesting seeing how the two teams gel as they are forced to work together, and some very interesting backstory of Roy’s is revealed as he begins to relate with the overly emo teens he’s having to take charge of.  On the periphery of this issue’s storyline are two seemingly unrelated references, one to Dr. Hugo Strange doing a book signing and the other to Deathstroke throwing knives at three pictures of each of the Outlaws and a brief comment on how he sometimes takes jobs simply for the fun of it.  I don’t know if this is Lobdell introducing plots to the two titles post-“Death of the Family” or what, but they are intriguing to say the least.
  • Supergirl #16 begins with the awakening of the giant crustacean looking beast that blew the Horn of Confluence in Superman #1 seventeen months ago, as well Superman #0 five months ago, and ends with the first image of the master whom the herald’s horn summons.  In between, H’el’s nightmarish plot for our solar system nearly reaches its conclusion and without Superman or Superboy (see last week’s review of Superboy #16) the Justice League is force to muddle though.  Flash’s task is to find Supergirl and get her away from H’el and out of the way of his endgame.  However, the Maiden of Steel is dead set on saving her home planet even at the expense of our solar system and every living thing residing within.  Her hopes and dreams are understandable, but her blindness to the value of human life and our right to existence is deplorable at best.  She’s a teenager who is homesick.  Its no excuse, but a reason to hold onto as she backs the wrong team.  Mike Johnson does an excellent job writing this series, especially its larger implications into a wider storyline, and Mahmud Asrar draws it decently well.

    Advent of the Oracle

    Advent of the Oracle

  • Superboy Annual #1 was a little trippy, taking place in a pocket dimension contained and generated by a device that Superman took off an evil space pirate in some far off quadrant of the universe.  The whole of the issue revolves around Superboy and his Kryptonian progenitor, Superman, blundering through different, shifting locales within, battling the denizens of this temporal prison as well as the sentient dimension itself.  The title falls under the “H’el on Earth” crossover event, but fails as an issue and an annual to do anything relevant to that goal.  If anything it hinders, rather than explores it.  So what does it accomplish?  Very little.  I think writer Tom DeFalco was aiming to further characterize the two characters in relation to one another, showing their differences and how each would cope with the other.  It did not, in my opinion, accomplish that in any significant way either.  All it did was bring out their worst characteristics of both in caricature.  I respect Tom DeFalco and the work he has done on this title since taking it over greatly.  I also have enormous respect Scott Lobdell, who wrote this series initially, and who tried to show the disjointed dynamic of these two men in the last issue of the Superman title.  He didn’t pull it off, in my opinion, either.  As Superboy #0 primed us to believe, Harvest preprogrammed Superboy to hate Superman and want to kill him.  That hasn’t happened yet, which begs the question of what that was about if they aren’t going to run with it?  This annual falls under the category of not really relevant or necessary to read.  If you fail to read it, you lose nothing in understanding the larger events going on in the series or miss out on a worthwhile yarn.  Better luck next time.
  • Catwoman #16 is a bit of a disappointment as the title goes.  I was a fan of writer Ann Nocenti’s early work on Green Arrow, but that has not translated to good writing on the rest of that series or through to this series.  The “Death of the Family” tie-in turned out to be a joke of an issue, and not a funny one the Joker would take pride in.  This two issue run beginning last issue and concluding here was laughable as well and thoroughly pointless.  Dealing with the current whereabouts of the Black Diamond, perhaps it will be the two issues that introduces Eclipso back into the DCU, but I doubt that will have any importance either.  I tried to find something good to say about this issue, but just couldn’t.  It was the opposite of what is good.
  • Blue Beetle #16 was a swan song to the seventeen issues of this series that have come out, ending in the Tenebrian Dominion and linking the continuance of fifteen year old Jaime Reyes’ (Blue Beetle) journey to the Threshold series and the “Hunted” reality show.  Jaime does his utmost to fight his way out of the grasp of the Ebon warriors of Lady Styx and get home to his family, but that isn’t in the cards . . . at least not yet.  He tries really hard.  However, when his last flicker of hope is blown out, he has his armor send a video file across the far reaches of space (It’s a comic, just go with it) to the emails of his parents and best friends telling them Jaime is going to come home someday, but in the event that he can’t, just how much each of them meant to him.  It is a beautiful moment despite the tragedy that befalls Blue Beetle as it plays out.  His words to each party involved are brief, but just right, clearly touching each person deeply.  Succumbing to his captors the issue closes, but it does so not with finality, but with infinite possibilities.  I was leery about this series when it first came out and for awhile it teetered on the edge of getting dropped.  I am so glad I saw it through to this last issue.  It was worth every step of the journey and I will continue to follow Jaime into Threshold.
  • Wonder Woman #16 brings the narrative back on track, setting the main characters’ sights (literally) on the baby of Zola and Zeus.  With the help of Wonder Woman’s brother, Milan, the group are able to see that the baby is in the arms of both Hermes and Demeter in the latter’s stronghold.  We are given further information about just why Orion has come to Earth and what his intentions are regarding the Gods of Earth.  In the Arctic, we see the First Born battling the forces of one of his unnamed uncles that were sworn to guard his burial place as well as the unmasked benefactor of the First Born who dug him out of the tundra.  The identity of this person caught me a little off guard and I look forward to future revelations regarding that character.  Finally Zola and Hera, who really hate one another and have tried to kill each other often, find a common ground and begin to thaw in their relations with one another.  This issue by Brian Azzarello really was intriguing, as well as giving evidence of greatness to come in future installments.  Cliff Chiang remains an incredible artist and renders all aspects perfectly in the tone dictated by Azzarello’s story.
    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #16, like last time,  is a placeholder, but one that ends the current story arc.  Here’s hoping the next three issues are better.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #2 was yet again confusing.  I’m going to have to do two placeholders in a row, because while this series has yet to come together in any meaningful way, I hold out hope that it will eventually when writer B. Clay Moore decides we should start to understand it.  Honestly though, this issue and its predecessor were just random events thrown into a metaphorical blender.  The only thing that links the two are references to the children disappearing and then being incinerated from the inside out.  Other than that the characters, their origins, motives, and affiliations are all a complete blank.  Holding down the fort is Tony Harris with incredible art.  Barring that and its association with the other two JSA: Liberty Files miniseries, I would say pass this one up.
  • Sword of Sorcery #4 begins with an Amethyst story taking place after she concluded her stint in Justice League Dark #14 but before she returns to her “home world”, the gem world of Nilaa.  Asking Constantine to take her quickly to Chicago for a last taste of pizza before returning to a world without Italian food from which she may never return, she stumbles across more evil magic on Earth that demands her attention.  This little yarn wasn’t that interesting or important to the main story, so we’ll chock this installment up to a less than exciting vacation and continue with the series anew next month, this time back in Nilaa where the character truly belongs, both inside and outside of the narrative. Also this month begins the Stalker backup feature written by the DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil scribe, Marc Andreyko.  I didn’t care for his above storyline and I can’t say that I liked this one either.  It was okay.  Much better than the Black Lightning and Blue Devil story, but the problem was that he was re-imagining a work of genius from the past with which I had a deep affection.  Paul Levitz wrote four issues of the Stalker series with Steve Ditko on pencils, before the series was cancelled due to the comic book implosion of the late 70’s.  With the original, it was a true swords & sorcery title that had a very straightforward, dark, and twisted character.  This run by Andreyko tried too hard to make him grandiose and relatable and totally missed the mark on all counts.  It then proceeds to show him living through the ages and emerging in the here and now, which again is completely WRONG for this title.  For those who want to know more about what the original series is about, I am going to put this link to my review of the Steve Ditko Omnibus in which the four issue of the Stalker series are collected: https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/review-the-steve-ditko-omnibus-vol-1-starring-shade-the-changing-man/
  • Saucer Country #11 tells the story of Governor Alvarado returning with her ex-husband, Michael, to the farm he grew up on.  Taking a detour from aliens, this story focuses on another folklore very akin to alien sightings but far more terrestrial.  Instead of little gray men, this issue has little winged men and women.  As children, Michael and his sister, Beth, used to see fairies and go on magical adventures.  He relives some of these memories including the last great encounter before things changed and he and Beth were forced to abandon belief in what they knew in their hearts actually happened.  Upon revisiting the events with people who were around back then, Michael realizes the truth behind the trauma that conjured fairies in the mind of two young innocent children.  The harsh reality that he discovers and the way the mind coped by sugaring the event over with fairies leads the reader to wonder what that holds for the existence of aliens and their role in the larger story being told here.  Paul Cornell continues this magnum opus, spawned from a lifelong fascination with alien mythology, with great talent and insight, constantly making the reader think and always keeping any inkling of what is going on cleanly out of reach.

Thus ends an incredible week of comics.  I am giddy as the fallout of the better titles play out in my head.  I dare say this may be the best week in comics I have read this month and perhaps in a long time.  Not all the best, but collectively there was a high quotient of awesome that is rarely matched let alone surpassed.  We’ll see if next week, the final of the January, can stand the test.  While I highly doubt it, I will be there to test them.  Hope you will too.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #16:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado & Ivan Reis

Batwoman #16:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Green Lantern: New Guardians #16:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6: Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto

Supergirl #16: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #16: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Week 68 (Dec. 19, 2012)

I have been waiting a long time for this week in comics.  Green Lantern and Green Lantern: The New Guardians are without a doubt the two best titles in the Green Lantern line up, Batwoman is a top tier title, two “Death of the Family” intros in Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and of course the introduction of Orion and the New Gods into the New DCU in Wonder Woman.  That said, let’s get to ’em:

  • Green Lantern#15 first and foremost tells us that Hal and Sinestro are in a place called “The Dead Zone” which is outside of the land of the living.  It doesn’t say that they are dead, just that they are in the Zone.  On Earth, Simon Baz, newest Green Lantern of Earth, tracks the owner of the van he stole in hopes that he can shed light on who stole the van before Simon did, setting up the explosives.  What Simon finds is much more sinister, especially when the Third Army makes an appearance in all their assimilating terror.  Also interesting is the advent of B’dg, the squirrel GL of Sector 1014, who reveals to the reader that the Green Lanterns have become aware of what the Guardians are doing with their newly minted Third Army.  Geoff Johns is amazing and has made this series so amazing for its whole seven year run.  This main title has seemed to skirt the issue of the Third Army, never directly dealing with it in lieu of introducing Simon Baz.  With the resolution of his innocence in the bombing of a Dearborn factory it would seem that his role in the DCU can become more cosmic, turning more prominently toward helping his fellow corpsmen fight the Third Army.  Though it hasn’t been said directly, it would seem to me that the Third Army is targeting the homeworlds of Green Lantern members.  Time will tell if I am correct in this assertion.

    Enter B'dg of Sector 1014

    Enter B’dg of Sector 1014

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #15 picks up with Kyle, his “coach” Star Sapphire, Carol Ferris, and sole Yellow Lantern, Arkillo, heading towards Okaara in the Vega systems to meet with Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern.  The idea is to get the master of the Orange light of Avarice to help Kyle master greed himself, thereby getting him closer to complete control over the emotional spectrum.  As with every Lantern title that is coming out under the “Third Army” banner, this issue features an attack by the Third Army that claims a very dear casualty for the readers.  Tony Bedard is slowly mounting the plot towards an incredible vista that is glorious to imagine.  And for the first time since issue #0 three months ago, Aaron Kuder provides interior art.  I am glad to see him back, as I have become a fan of his style, but putting it side to side with the previous issues done by Andrei Bressan, it really isn’t that different.  The end of the “Third Army” storyline is coming close to its resolution in January and this series looks to keep pace with that schedule.  January 30th can’t come soon enough in my humble opinion.
  • Batwoman #15 marks the return of Batwoman to Gotham with Wonder Woman in tow.  However, the issue focuses on Batwoman’s paramour, Det. Maggie Sawyer.  Since the first issue a little over a year ago Maggie has been the lead on the investigation of Medusa’s mass kidnappings of small children.  Batwoman has traversed the darkness and attacked head-on the shadowy pockets where Medusa’s minions dwell with contacts in the DEO and the masked community.  She fights the good fight unaccountable to anyone.  Maggie is bogged down with limited resources, jurisprudence, and a foe that is far beyond her experience.  She is the mouthpiece of the case, who for these sixteen months has had to look the parents in the eyes and give them comfort and confidence that their children will be brought home safely.  Though she isn’t going to the places that Batwoman is or kicking as much ass, she is the one who holds the fort down and gives hope.  This issue pays tribute to her, a bad ass cop and a woman who has been through hell.  Throughout we are made privy to her thoughts, fears, past traumas, and aspirations.  J.H. Williams III does art on the first and last page of the issue with Trevor McCarthy doing the rest of the interiors.  Since it breaks from the Batwoman/Wonder Woman perspective the transition is not inappropriate, but I will admit that McCarthy’s, which isn’t terrible, is not as engrossing as Williams’ incredible panels.  I believe next issue will not only return to Batwoman and Wonder Woman fighting Medusa, but also Williams on art duty.

    The Lanterns of Greed

    The Lanterns of Greed

  • Before Watchmen: Moloch #2 delivers the second half of the life of Moloch the Mystic.  Moloch lived a life of sin and corruption, hurting people to assuage the pain of being shunned and oppressed himself because of his physical deformities.  After years of incarceration and numerous apprehensions by one costumed adventurer or another, Moloch finds salvation in the Lord, repenting his past wrongs and attempting to make right on them.  Enter Adrian Veidt, the former mystery man Ozymandias.  He offers Moloch a job, as well as a chance to reenter society as a productive member.  The childlike exuberance that Moloch shows throughout the issue is truly heartrending, especially when you already know his ultimate fate.  Ozymandias may be a hero in title, but his methods are cold and calculating, and the ultimate scheme that makes itself manifest in Alan Moore’s original graphic novel includes giving Moloch terminal cancer to facilitate his nightmarish plan.  Topically, this issue is awful, because a good man who just wants a chance at redemption is exploited and purposefully afflicted with the most horrible of afflictions.  That’s the doom and gloom of Alan Moore for you.  However, J. Michael Straczynski, who writes this two part series, plays up the born again christian aspect of Moloch’s story so that when confronted with the reality of what Ozymandias has done to him and why, Moloch accepts that the goal is virtuous and that as a sinner his death could mean the salvation of billions.  He got a bum deal, but he accepts his role in a larger drama and gains absolution through his suffering in an almost Christ-like fashion.  Even though Ozymandias did this without his knowledge and with no thought for his volition, it comes out right and almost has a happy ending.

    Absolution Through Death

    Absolution Through Death

  • Catwoman #15 has Selina going back to work after the lackluster two issue “Death of the Family” story.  Across the board, the tie-ins have been doing what I feel to be very important things, whereas this one was not only not ominous, it just didn’t accomplish anything at all.  Oh well . . .  She pulls one heist for fun, crashing a rich teen’s party while her parents are out of town, but later takes on a job to steal an artifact from the “Black Room” of A.R.G.U.S..  That artifact being the Black Diamond, which we know from previous incarnations of the DCU to be the talisman of Eclipso.  The circumstances of this situation are far more interesting than the actual execution.  The information we get about the Black Room feels like it will be important to the impending “Trinity War” event down the road, as well as a clue into the really random headings placed on titles that fall under the “Black Diamond Probability.”  Most of the banner events get press and/or advertisement.  Thusfar the “Black Diamond Probability” has not, which makes it that much more intriguing.  We’ll see if the underground hype pays off or is just a smokescreen.
  • Nightwing #15 brings Dick Grayson into the fold of the Joker’s “Death of the Family” plot.  Since his first issue, a year and a half ago, Dick has inherited the circus he was raised in and discovered his familial tie to Gotham and the shadowy forces that have governed it for centuries.  Like Bruce, his goal as these events have progressed is to turn Gotham around and make good on the evils that have led to the great city’s decline.  In the process, he’s reestablished old relationships as well as new trusts with the members of the circus, gambling on the group’s future as a staple of Gotham City entertainment.  With the Joker coming on the scene, that trust is stretched to the breaking-point as obviously Nightwing has painted a bullseye on their chests as an exploitable weakness.  Since those members of Haly’s Circus that remain have done so, also gambling on Dick’s dream, their safety is paramount in Nightwing’s mind, adding further desperation by the former Robin to take down the Joker before his insanity imperils more of his friends.  As we’ve seen in the other books under this event’s banner, the Joker’s individualized plots against “the Family”  are minutely designed to cut deep at their intended targets.  One of the lynch pins in the Nightwing plot is a red-headed ghost from Dick’s past that adds further depth to the overall scheme.  Color me intrigued as we await issue #16.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 fleshes out perhaps the most interesting of the Joker’s plots under the “Death of the Family” event in his plan for Jason Todd.  Writer Scott Lobdell has quintessentially linked Jason, aka Red Hood, to the Joker in his #0 issue of this title.  Jason was for all intents and purposes a hobby the Joker took up out of boredom, putting a street punk with family issues in the path of Batman upon faking his mother’s O.D-ing on drugs, setting up a situation where this punk would be taken on as Robin, and then setting up this punk’s death to mess with the Batman.  In this issue, after staging an eerily familiar scene of Jason’s girlfriend, Isabel, O.D-ing in her apartment, the Joker abducts our red masked protagonist and places him within a maze that sloooowly reveals tokens of every stage of his journey to being Robin through his death at the Joker’s hands, not only proving that the Joker knows who he is but that he was also present every step of the way!  Lobdell really struck a nerve with his revelation of the Joker’s connection to Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, and in this issue begins to play that nerve like a Stradivarius.  I can only image that next month’s concluding issue will do nothing less.

    The Hard Truth

    The Hard Truth

  • Supergirl #15 ushers in the next chapter of the “H’el on Earth” event with H’el evicting the Man of Steel and his cloned protege, Superboy, from the Fortress of Solitude.  With Supergirl in tow he sends her into the bottled city of Kandor to retrieve an object of crucial importance to their plot to resurrect Krypton.  The story is framed with a reminiscence of one of Kara’s last days on Krypton in the company of her best friend, Tali.  With the memories of yesterday so fresh in her mind, and the sighting of her comatose friend within the Bottle City, the rationale of Supergirl falling for H’el’s psychotic plan, veiled though it may be in sugary lies.  She does so out of loneliness, out of a sense of cultural and social loss, and out of a burgeoning passion.  Though she is misguided, her journey is still really engrossing and compelling.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #15 takes a break from the usual pace of things with a magical jaunt to the city of Barcelona.  One of writer Paul Levitz’s newest creations, Legion rookie Glorith, protege of veteran legionnaire the White Witch, is transported by an enigmatic voice in a dream through a portal to Barcelona.  When the Legionnaires later go to find her, the city is descended into chaos as denizens and scenes from throughout the city and surrounding area’s past spring up.  These include dinosaurs, cavemen, Inquisition era mobs complete with torches, and 20th century guerrillas.  Not seeming to connect with the large dilemmas the Legion has been facing, as is Levitz’s authorial style, this issue still is really engaging and quintessentially a Levitz Legion yarn.  And as it doesn’t connect with any overhanging plot from the recent past, that doesn’t mean that it won’t intertwine later into a characteristically complex storyline.  
  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #15 just was.  I’m only putting it up here as a place holder.  Not a good series, but maybe it will facilitate something interesting in a later appearance by one or both of these characters in another series.  Otherwise, not good.
  • Wonder Woman #15 is delving into something that I have been waiting for since the inception of the New DCU: The New Gods.  Jack Kirby’s legendary creations have always been among my favorite DC characters and concepts.  With the first arc of Geoff Johns Justice League I was horrified with the abysmal depiction of Darkseid and his hoards of Apokalips.  With Brian Azzarello’s exploration of the New Gods from New Genesis I am hopeful that the DC will have a second chance at doing right by Jack Kirby’s work.  Here Orion is sent to Earth to treat with one of the sons of Zeus, the blind vagrant Milan.  Wonder Woman and her brother, Lennox, also seek out Milan in their attempt to locate Hermes and the abducted baby of their friend, Zola.  As is characteristic of both Wonder Woman and Orion, misunderstandings are made and the two immediately resort to violence.  Though last issue did give a hint at the reason for Orion’s coming to Earth, the main points are still a mystery, but I remain hopeful that good things will come of this story arc.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #1 is a return to an Elseworld that I greatly enjoyed.  For those not in the know, Elseworlds are re-imaginings that take DC characters out of their normal surroundings and insert them into brand new contexts.  The most famous Elseworld is probably Superman: Speeding Bullets where Kal-El, last son of Krypton, is rocketed to Earth from his doomed planet where he lands in Gotham City and is found by the childless Martha and Thomas Wayne, raised under the name Bruce Wayne, witnesses their murder and later dons cape and cowl, becoming Batman, albeit with flight, super strength, super speed, and heat vision.  JSA: Speeding Bullets was a series that took the Golden Aged DC characters and re-imagined them as deep cover covert operatives of the United States Armed Services during WWII, originally written by Dan Jolley and drawn by Tony Harris.  Drawn by returning artist, Tony Harris, and written by B. Clay Moore, this series under the subtitle The Whistling Skull deals with deep cover operatives of what appear to be strictly British Intelligence, although that may not hold up to be true as the story unfolds over the forthcoming five issues.  Starting out with a five page jaunt to the Japan of 1940, Dr. Midnight, Hour Man, and Wildcat (all American) are seen with the Skull and his sidekick, Knuckles, both British.  The rest of the issue is a disjointed progression of jumping back and forth between England in the 20’s and Switzerland in the 40’s.  In Switzerland there is a mysterious, mystical malady that is killing locals in a horrific fashion, but the cause and its ties to the larger war happening in Europe is not alluded to.  To my knowledge the Whistling Skull and Knuckles are completely new characters with no basis within comic lore, and regardless of this being the case or not, are very poorly introduced in this first issue.  The premise is interesting to be sure, but as a first issue this one failed to develop a cogent premise.  However, because I enjoyed the original two series in collected graphic novel, I will ride this one out.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5 brings the miniseries to the brink of realizing its subject, namely He-Man and the Masters of the Universe becoming reestablished.  From issue #1 five months ago, we have seen an Eternia where He-Man and the Masters have been placed under a state of amnesia and the forces of Skeletor carving out little fiefdoms of control.  Skeletor himself is locked in Castle Grayskull, attempting to wrest the fabled power it houses from the imprisoned Sorceress and even the spirit of Grayskull itself.  Adam and Teela have landed on an island controlled by Evil-Lyn and while escaping from her forces, led by Teela’s amnesiac father, Man-at-Arms, the two come across He-Man’s sword, aptly sheathed in stone.  Upon drawing it from the stone in Arthurian fashion, he not only remembers who he is, becoming He-Man once more, but also awakens all of his allies from their own forgetful somnambulism.   Next issue, the final of the six part story, promises to be a He-Man adventure like we have known in the past.

    Drawing the Sword of Power from a Stone

    Drawing the Sword of Power from a Stone

  • Sword of Sorcery #3 continues the Amethyst plot as Princess Amaya of House Amethyst continues to acclimate to her life in the Gem World of Nilaa.  Her evil aunt, Queen Mordiel, proposes a meeting with Amaya and her mother, Graciel, at neutral ground at their brother Bhoj’s country estate.  The results are predictable, but the information and characterization revealed within this parlay are truly intriguing taken together with what we already know of Gem World. The issue also takes us up to the moment in which John Constantine snatches Amaya back into our world, as seen in Justice League Dark Annual #1 with the portal stone. Writer Christie Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti really deliver an engrossing look into what would seem like a froufrou, utterly ridiculous title.  On the contrary, Amethyst is a very intricate book of feudalism and realpolitik, with almost as much intrigue but way less sex than “Game of Thrones.”   The Beowulf feature reaches its concluding installment as the enigmatic woman, identifying herself only as “Grendel’s mother,” explains to our protagonist the rationale behind his creation as a direct result of the superhuman advent, as seen in Justice League #1, and a human supremacy movement by the villain Regulus, as seen in Suicide Squad.  Tony Bedard foreshadows a great many things about what Beowulf is, yet withholds a great deal up to this issues conclusion and the ending of this chapter in the saga of Beowulf.  The feature does end with a solicitation that “Beowulf will return in 2013!” so all hope isn’t lost that answers will come.  In the meantime, the next issue of Sword of Sorcery will contain the Stalker feature written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Andrei Bressan.  Writer and artist are both fantastic, and I am excited by the title itself, which was based off of a Paul Levitz four issue series from 1975.  I will stay on this series with great enthusiasm and I would encourage others to do the same.
  • The Unwritten #44 is an exemplary reason why this series is incredible.  The main character, Tommy Taylor, descends into the Underworld to rescue the woman he loves, Lizzy Hexam.  This endeavor mirrors a Golden Age superhero comic that a character in the series past wrote, which itself was obviously mirrors the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  When he gets into the Underworld, his guides are the slain children of the warden of the French prison that Tommy was held in close to the series beginning.  Both children were incredibly round, complex characters, killed far before their time both literally and literarily, but creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove how wide reaching this series is by returning them to the narrative in a very thoughtful way.  The issue shows the workings of Hades in the world of The Unwritten, as well as sets up its most unlikely of Underworld Kings, again another resurrected character from issues past.  This book is stunning.  Read it.

    The Tinker Descends Into the Underworld

    The Tinker Descends Into the Underworld

And so ends the last real week of comics in December.  Next week has a few stray titles for the day after Christmas.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern #15:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern: New Guardians #15:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Moloch #2: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Red Hood & the Outlaws #15: Drawn by Timothy Green II, Colored by Blond, Inked by Wayne Faucher

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5: Drawn by Philip Tan & Pop Mhan, Colored by Lee Loughridge & Jim Charalampidis, Inked by Pop Mhan, Jim Charalampidis & Lebeau Underwood

The Unwritten #44: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry

Week 62 (Nov. 7, 2012)

The first week of the month may be the best, because so many consistently good title come out.  Flagship titles like Action Comics, Detective Comics, as well as seminal classics like Swamp Thing, Green Lantern, and Worlds’ Finest.  This promises to be a fun batch of issues.

  • Action Comics #14 is pure Morrison.  Taking place on the planet Mars, the colonial terraforming mission is attacked by the Metaleks and only Superman is in a position to save the men and women besieged there.  Through this issue, Grant Morrison not only delivers a background on what the Metaleks are, what they want, and where they come from, but also begins the road to the end of his meteoric run, which portends to be MASSIVE!!!  The “Multitude” which has laid waste to thousands of planets is at the root of this issue’s plot and only Superman’s father, Jor-El, had ever successfully staved off this angelic horde.  Can he do the same? Almost since issue #1 a clear path has been laid and a monumental threat alluded to.  As can be expected from Morrison’s mindbending, psychedelic style, the main architect of nearly all the mayhem we’ve seen thus far is a denizen of the fifth dimension . . .  Stay tuned.

    A Look Into the Past

  • Green Lantern #14 redeems the ending of the last issue a little bit.  The Justice League aren’t as awful and petty as they appear in writer Geoff Johns’ other series, but still not exactly the best written in terms of dialogue and characterization.  However, the plot of this issue is tight and I enjoyed it a great deal.  Whatever I might say about his other projects and the motivations behind them, this series is one that has maintained and built off of the inherent excellence of the title.  The same really can’t be said for some of his other titles.  Simon Baz goes toe-to-toe with the Justice League and despite only having been in possession of his Green Lantern ring for a little more than a day gets the upper hand on Superman, Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Not bad for a poor kids from Dearborn, Michigan.  Meanwhile, across the Universe, Black Hand and the Guardians that have been locked away for eons by their megalomaniacally insane brethren begin to interact, intimating that there may be a very strange teamup in the works against the Guardians of the Universe and their nightmarish Third Army.

    RISE . . .

  • Detective Comics #14 takes a very strange turn in the second issue of writer John Layman’s tour of the book.  With his first issue last month he started a conspiracy with the Penguin attempting to keep Batman preoccupied with a string of random crimes to distract the Dark Knight from his plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne.  Well following on the heels of that intriguingly paradoxical plotline, Layman shoots out to left field with a seemingly unrelated plot of Poison Ivy commiting eco-crimes across Gotham and Batman trying to stop her.  Its well written, no doubt about it, but also confusing as one tries to grasp onto a solid plotline or conflict.  Given time hopefully one will appear.  Layman has a very methodical and detail oriented voice that fits the Batman title like a well tailored suit in a film noir movie.  Jason Fabok’s art is beautiful in the main feature, and while Layman and Fabok introduce a surprise husband for the leafy villainess at the end of the main story, Layman gets help from Andy Clarke with a stark and stunningly rendered backup feature that explained how these oddly paired ne’er-do-wells came to be “wed.”
  • Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 does . . . it . . . AGAIN!  Its been awhile since there’s been a debut issue in the Before Watchmen line, but yet again the editors, and especially writer J. Michael Straczynski, have delivered in spades.  To Watchmen faithful, Moloch the Mystic is known as an integral part of the graphic novel itself as well as a hallmark villain from the heyday of the group’s past in superheroics.  In the original Alan Moore series from the 80’s, Moloch is primarily shown in a very pathetic light after he’d renounced his criminal ways.  This book shows him once again in a very sympathetic  manner from traumatic childhood through his criminal days and finally to his last release from prison after finding Jesus and rehabilitation.  J. Michael Straczynski has a real knack for not only generating a very emotional involvement between the story and the reader, but also creating a very vivid environment that is authentic to the time and place it takes place.  This series is only a twofer, so at issue’s end we are halfway through his story in this preceding tale of the Watchmen universe.  Can’t wait for round two.
  • Swamp Thing #14 continues on from issue #13 and the Swamp Thing Annual following Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, haven of the last surviving plant and floral life on the planet after the Rot’s dominion of the Earth, in search not only of Anton Arcane who is responsible for the death of his own niece and Swamp Thing’s lover, Abigail Arcane, but also proof that Abigail is in fact dead.  We saw her plane crash into the mountains as a direct result of Anton’s monstrosities, but we also see here that she did survive past that point.  Her return to her homeland, Blestemat (which incidentally in Romanian means “Accursed”), is still shrouded in mystery and we are shown further images of that portion of her journey as well, prolonging our own wish to know what has befallen her.  Upon Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, Boston Brand, aka Deadman, instructs him to turn his sights first to Gotham where it is rumored a weapon exists called the Soul Grinder (see Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13) which could potentially defeat the Rot.  With this revelation Scott Snyder is steering to a convergence between this title, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 

    The Girl of Rot and the Boy of Green

  • Animal Man #14 also figures into the “Rot World” event and in the Red Kingdom Animal Man and his allies come under fire from the turned superheroes that have succumbed to the Rot.  Teamed up with him are Steel, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid, the foursome set out for Anton Arcane’s castle to rescue Animal Man’s daughter, Maxine, the current avatar of the Red.  In the process, like Abigail Arcane in Swamp Thing, we see a few snippets of Max’s flight from the Rot following the end year long jump in time that Swamp Thing and Animal Man experienced when they attacked the heart of the Black.  An interesting tidbit is the little boy that four year old Max meets amid the desiccated wasteland of undead nightmares.  We’ve seen him before and his appearance marks a truly frightening turn in the crossover event.  Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are geniuses and this event is going to set up the next several years of storytelling in these two titles.
  • Earth 2 #6  is an interesting title because of the similarities and the differences existing between our universe (Earth 1) and the universe of Earth 2, following the different courses of the Apokalips invasions of each world.  In this world, with the death of all the superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc, a World Army and World Council govern the planet.  However, after several years another threat that is akin to the Animal Man and Swamp Thing plots above rears its head and superheroes are once again needed.  In the aforementioned titles the Rots is referred to as the Black.  On Earth 2 the Grey is a force of withering rather than decay and its avatar, Solomon Grundy, has been resurrected to quite literally kill the planet.  Answering this threat are the newly minted Green Lantern (avatar of the Green which represents all live, plant and animal), Flash (who hails from Lansing, Michigan!), the enigmatic Hawkgirl, and the Atom who is a special agent of the World Army.  It’ll take all of them, but most especially Green Lantern to thwart the accelerated death of the planet.  This issue concludes that monumental endeavor, but unlike the ending of Justice League #1, which featured the first gathering of superheroes on our world, this gathering has a very thought provoking epilogue.
  • Worlds’ Finest #6 was one I have been dying to read for some time.  This title is akin to Earth 2, because following the events of the former title’s first issue, the Robin (Helena Wayne) and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) of that second earth are brought to ours and must adapt into the new identities of Huntress, nee Robin, and Power Girl, nee Supergirl, to survive.  As a Wayne, Helena has information about her “not father” and his financial holdings that mirror her real father’s on Earth 2, so some borrowing has occurred.  Well, on this earth at this time the current wearer of the red, green, and yellow is Earth 1 Batman’s biological child . . . Damian Wayne.  Damian Wayne is a psychotic and very, very territorial.  His “not sister” (that fact unbeknownst to him) siphoning money off his dear old dad doesn’t sit right with him and as ever with Damian, violence ensues.  I love Damian so much and seeing the two children of Batman going toe-to-toe is a pleasure.  Especially considering that the writer of this battle royale is none other than Paul Levitz, one of my current favorite writers who made his name on writing teen angst since the early 80’s.  And on top of that, with help from Kevin Maguire and George Perez both pulling art duties on the issue, it nothing short of a dirty pleasure.  This title has been golden since issue #1 seven months ago.

    Now Kids, No More Fighting . . .

  • Batwing #14 brings David Zavimbe one step closer to discovering the truth behind the enigmatic cult leader, Father Lost.  After breaking up a human sacrificial ritual that also was crashed by the equally enigmatic crimefighter, Dawn, Batwing learns her true identity, Rachel Niamo.  Rachel was an orphan at the refugee camp David crashed at after his child soldier days.  Following up on this lead, a conspiracy within the victims of Father Lost’s attacks leads him further down the rabbit hole, to the jackal’s layer, to mix some metaphors.  Judd Winick’s run on this issue ends with this issue, strangely mid-arc, but has been stellar across the board.  I look forward to seeing how new writer, Fabian Nicieza, concludes the Father Lost storyline and continues Batwing’s African crusade.  Winick and Nicieza both constitute tried and true members of the Bat-books’ bullpen, so I think that the transition might brook some changes, but not affect the quality of the future issues adversely.
  • G.I. Combat #6 splits its narrative as always, starting out with Peter Tomasi’s Haunted Tank feature.  After rescuing his grandson, Scott, from Afghanistan Lt. Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank make for more chilly climates.  The purpose of the Tank’s (haunted by Scott and Jeb’s ancestor, the Civil War general J.E.B. Stuart) return to operation is spelled out in the return of its greatest foe, along with Jeb’s:  the newly minted Fourth Reich.  Great writing alongside Howard Chaykin’s distinctive artwork.  And in the flagstone Unknown Soldier feature the culprits behind the hacking of a nuclear power plant as well as the endgame of their plot begin to make themselves known.  It also spells desperate trouble for the Unknown Soldier.
  • Smallville Season 11 #7  progresses the budding association of the Batman and Superman as their interests cross with Intergang’s spreading to Gotham and Joe Chill’s associate with the group.  Superman wants to shut them down legitimately and Batman wants to hit them hard, but more importantly get at Chill, his parents’ murderer and even the score.  Obviously Superman isn’t going to be down for that, so the two met as enemies.  However, after their association develops into one of mutual gain, Superman gets shot with kryptonite bullets and the only person with the skills and equipment to save the Man of Steel’s life is . . . Batman.  Adding new dimensions to the dynamic of the “World’s Finest” this issue is a game changer.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #2 presents one solid plot line this issue, as opposed to the three part anthology that comprised the first issue.  Told by writer B. Clay Moore, a slew of “Batmen” are slain by Killer Croc after seeking out the elusive lizard.  These Batmen are regular people with no connection to Batman or crimefighting at all.  Someone with a grudge against Croc is abducting upstanding members of Gotham society and brainwashing them into hunting him in his subterranean hunting ground. So what happens when Bruce Wayne is brainwashed into thinking he’s Batman . . .  Though this isn’t as good as the previous issue, its still a really thought provoking Batman story that cuts to the heart of the character’s essence.  Also the art of Ben Templesmith makes the issue seem like a giant acid trip, and when the premise is people losing touch with reality and their identities, that kind of discordant imagery really sets the mood and puts the reader deep in the plot.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #14:  Drawn by Chris Sprouse, Colored by Jordie Bellaire, Inked by Karl Story

Green Lantern #14:  Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne

Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Swamp Thing #14: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Worlds’ Finest #6: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Week 57 (Oct. 3, 2012)

Fresh out of September DC returns to the present in a line up of #13 issues.  As awesome as it was to go through the exceptional origins provided, its like coming home from vacation and settling back into the familiar and relevant.  So here we go.

  • Since its October, Action Comics #13 is a Halloween issue featuring the first exploration of the Phantom Zone by the Super-books.  Writer Grant Morrison shows how the denizens of this temporal area are able to walk our world in complete isolation as ghosts, cut off from most of the senses.  The real heart of the issue comes in the banishment of a rogue Kryptonian scientist, Xa-Du, to the Zone by high councillor of the Science Guild, Jor-El.  As you can imagine, Xa-Du swears vengeance on the House of El.  He nearly accomplishes it on the day of Krypton’s destruction, temporarily escaping the Zone only to be held back from the baby, Kal-El, by the family dog, Krypto, who sadly returns the criminal to the Zone at the cost of his own freedom.  Krypto is the heart of this issue.  In both the main narrative and the backup feature by Sholly Fisch the loyalty and sacrifice of Krypto is highlighted, showing that no matter what planet you live on, a dog will ALWAYS be any man’s (Super or otherwise) best friend.  Krypto is sort of a corny concept in a lot of ways, but if you put a good writer like Grant Morrison or James Robinson on him, that dog can move you to tears.  I’m not the hugest fan this issue’s artist, Travel Foreman, but he did a pretty decent job of rendering the eerie art of this Halloween issue.  I would greatly endorse this book to people the love Superman, but definitely to anyone who loves dogs.

    A Boy And His Dog

  • Green Lantern #13 was a phenomenal issue on multiple levels.  Following Green Lantern #0, Simon Baz is settling into the brand new role thrust upon him of Green Lantern.  Considering the turbulent events of his life and especially the recent trials and tribulations, this new development is quite overwhelming.  On one level he is forced to deal with being thrust into an intergalactic war against the freedom of individuality that the Guardians of the Universe are waging.  On  another he is forced to deal with his place in a war that the American people and its government is waging on its citizens of Arabic descent and the Islamic faith.  This topic in particular is what makes this new chapter in Green Lantern so intriguing.  On the first level mentioned it is sticking to the superheroic genre that the title is renowned for, yet on the second level it is returning to the hard hitting sociopolitical commentary that made Green Lantern/Green Arrow so incredible in the 60’s/70’s, and really matured DC as a company from kid stuff to poignant literature.  I applaud Geoff Johns for continuing Green Lantern excellence, while rejuvenating the point of superheroes to not only save humanity and America from supervillains, but also from ourselves.  That latter conflict is probably the bitterest struggle.  I was prepared to hate this new Green Lantern, whoever he was, but sonuvagun, I am deeply invested in not only Simon Baz, but also his sister, Sira, and his entire family.  So one hand is giving you a thumbs up, Mr. Johns.  A BIG thumbs up. The other hand is giving you a thumbs down, because true to your other work, the Justice League makes an appearance at the end.  Just as they are portrayed in their own title, they are shortsighted, elitist, sucker-punching douchebags.  I love Superman.  I love Aquaman. I love Wonder Woman.  I DO NOT like them the way Johns is currently writing them.

    A Message From His Predecessors

  • Detective Comics #13 was an introductory issue to the next regime of this title.  Writer/artist Tony Daniel is succeeded by writer John Layman and artist Jason Fabok.  Fabok’s art is phenomenal, intricate, and clean, so his contribution to the title is definitely a selling point.  Layman’s writing is very concise and well detailed, and I enjoy reading it.  However, I am uncertain where he is taking the story.  Batman is led on an elaborate goose chase around Gotham, while a hit is put out on Bruce Wayne by the Penguin.  The story has possibilities, but the endgame is kind of hazy.  Since its a first issue I won’t be too picky, but still its hard to gauge whether or not to proceed with the title from the information given.  In the backup feature we get a close up on one of the Penguin’s goons, Ogilvy, and his philosophy on how to exist as a hood in Gotham city.  The art is done by the incredible Andy Clarke and is a pleasure to look at, as well as read.  Overall, a decent first outing by the new creative team.
  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #2  improves on the last issue in regards to its main character. Rorschach did not sound as authentic in the first issue, but he sounded and acted authentic in this one.  His clipped sentences and misanthropic statements are all present here in vibrant brevity.  In the first issue he got his ass handed to him by a gang lord known on the streets as Rawhead.  This issue shows Rorschach fighting back with the same ferocity and psychopathic disregard that Alan Moore originally endowed him with in the 80’s.  Despite the first issue introducing a killer of women with a penchant for cutting messages into their dead flesh, that guy wasn’t shown at all in this issue, which makes me wonder how he will figure in, considering that there is only two more issues in this particular series.  Still, I will commend writer Brian Azzarello on his spot on depiction of the title character this month.
  • Swamp Thing #13 begins the “Rotworld: Green Kingdom” arc in the title.  Yanick Paquette returns to the title to provide luscious art for what promises to be the most incredible story in Swamp Thing history to date.  After the events of August’s Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover, a year has passed since Alec Holland and Buddy Baker have descended into the Rot’s domain, attempting to take the fight to them.  Failing, they return only an hour later, to find that the outside world has advanced an entire year and the world at large has been almost completely  overwhelmed by the Rot.  The last defenders of the Green are two: Poison Ivy, which makes sense, and Deadman, which is kind of  strange but totally out of the park.  With their help he is able to commune with the Parliament of Trees and ascertain what has befallen the Earth and what measures might save it.  What is most shocking, shown to us but unbeknownst to Alec, is the fate of Abby Arcane after the events of issue #12.  I am so very excited by this event going on in Swamp Thing and Animal Man.

    The Green Kingdom

  • Animal Man #13 falls in line with Swamp Thing above, initiating the “Rotworld: Red Kingdom” arc and showing Buddy Baker’s exodus into a decimated world of one year later.  As with Swamp Thing he is greeted by the last champions of the Red.  In this case, he meets three: Beast Boy, which makes sense, Black Orchid, which I am uncertain about considering her seeming connection to plants and not animals, and Steel, which indirectly makes sense because he has become living metal and immune to decay and Rot.  Like the Green, the Red has set up an oasis in the wastelands of Rot, but this one is slightly different as the Parliament of Trees still holds dominion over the Green Kingdom.  In the Red Kingdom, the Totems have sacrificed their sentience to build their haven, robbing Animal Man of the guidance that Alec Holland enjoyed in his title.  Also like Swamp Thing,we are treated to the back story of what happened to Baker’s family in that year gap.  It seems like both titles have been working off of a formula, and I hope that as the “Rotworld” story progresses the titles will interconnect, but veer off and have non-mirroring plots.  I understand the credence behind doing the things in these issues that have been done, but hope that isn’t symptomatic of how the two titles go from here on out.  Still very excited by what they are doing.

    The Red Kingdom

  • Earth 2 #5 picks up where the last issue left off with the new panoply of “Wonders” meeting for the first time in the National Mall to combat the assaults of Grundy, avatar of the Grey.  Coming off of the two “Rotworld” books above, this issue sort of fell right into place.  The Grey is simply death, not so much decay, but plain withering and lifelessness.  The Green in this title, of which Alan Scott’s Green Lantern is champion, represents all life, both plant and animal.  When Scott makes the Orpheus-like descent into the Grey to commune with its sentience he is shown a very similar relationship as the Parliament of Trees or Parliament of Limbs to their avatars in the two aforementioned books; empowerment, but not control.  Whether or not Grundy follows their dictates, the Grey are not able to stop him.  In the realm of the World Army, much more is revealed about the state of things and how the Earth governments operate after the Apokalips incursion on their world.  I feel that writer James Robinson has scored a home-run on this title.  It is incredible, it is action packed, it follows but is not weighed down by past continuity, and most of all its characters don’t come off as idealized, but rather as real people with real inhibitions, character flaws, and fears.  Nicola Scott on art completes the symphony of storytelling with lustrous artwork.
  • Worlds’ Finest #5 follows the conclusion of its first arc and provides an interim story for the time between the first arc and the one beginning next month.  George Perez illustrates the current sequence in the book, as before, but this issue has split the past sequences between Kara’s and Helena’s experiences.  The Kara sequence was drawn by Jerry Ordway and the Helena sequence by Wes Craig.  The Kara plot had her visiting the CERN Super-Collider under the Alps.  This apparatus has the potential to open a portal to Earth-2 if utilized properly.  Another invader similar to Hakkou in its incursion, but dissimilar in appearance, comes out of the portal and seeks to destroy the Collider.  Of course, Power Girl steps in and trashes the invader, but preparations to restart the experiment are put off for several months. The Helena sequence seemed to be just there for filler.  Taking place at a “Take Back the Night” demonstration in the common area of a Boston University, Harvard perhaps, Huntress  nabs a sniper who was taking shots into the crowd.   This one doesn’t seem on the surface to correlate with the future plot of the title, but there is something odd about it.  Firstly, no victims are shown as a result of the sniper’s shots, and secondly he attempts to defend his actions to Huntress, but she cuts him off every time.  In any event, this was an interesting story.  Looking forward to November’s issue featuring the meeting of the children of the Bat: the grown Helena Wayne and the sociopathic ten year old, Damian Wayne.  I know with Paul Levitz writing it that it’ll be stellar.
  • Batwing #13 finds Tinasha plagued by a cult lead by an enigmatic figure known as Father Lost.  In his wake Father Lost leaves madness and terror. Beginning with a round of human sacrifices, an African heroine named Dawn is introduced wielding two swords whose blades appear to be composed of pure electricity.  Her costume is minimalistic and but for the swords would almost not even be discernible as a costume: black pants, a field jacket, and what appears to be a red hijab.  Perhaps (and hopefully) we will have another Islamic superhero to add to the growing panoply, following Simon Baz in Green Lantern.  Though little else is revealed about her, she does have a connection to Renee, the slain woman from last month’s zero issue, which may imply a connection between her and David Zavimbe, aka Batwing.   Batwing himself deals with the fallout of Father Lost’s mad design stopping a half  crazed South African general from kamikaze-ing Tinasha with a jet fighter.  Following up, David doubles down when his fellow police officer, Kia Okuru, reveals that her own niece has been abducted.  The issue is high energy and an interesting glimpse into some of the issues plaguing Africa.  I know child soldiers are an issue in Africa today, as are tyrannical regimes sustained by emerging oil production, but I have no idea if cult worship is a major problem.  If it isn’t in real life, it certainly is an interesting calamity in the world of DC’s Africa.

    The “Dawn” Of An African Superheroine

  • Green Arrow #13  finishes the plot line of issue #12 from August.  Stranded in China with the forces of Chinese businessman, Jin Fang, breathing down his neck, Green Arrow enlists the help of Sino-superheroine, Suzie Ming, to help him not only escape, but exit the country with the controlling shares of his company Fang bought legitimately. Not the best issue, but still pretty good owing to the writing of Ann Nocenti.  Yet again, she writes an entertaining story that depicts Ollie as an Emerald Lothario.
  • G.I. Combat #5 has a new feature segment, The Haunted Tank, written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  In the present era, the eponymous Haunted Tank, possessed by the spirit of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart seeks out his descendant, WWII Army Captain Jeb Stuart, in Detroit Michigan.  Now 98 years old, the two seek out both of their descendant and the current Stuart serving in Afghanistan.  Problem is, Col. Steve Trevor isn’t so happy about his property, i.e. the Tank, wheeling its way out of his Black Room.  Also happening in Detroit, the Unknown Soldier flies to the Motor City to track down a domestic terrorist organization comprised of Gulf Storm POW’s converted to hardline Islamic fundamentalism.  Without spoiling the plot too much: Shit goes down . . .

    The Next Generation In the Saga of the Haunted Tank

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #1 inaugurates an anthology book that features little vignettes by some of the comic industry’s best talent tackling the Caped Crusader in stories that capture his truly incredible nature.  Starting it off is a tale written by Damon Lindelof (of Lost fame) and drawn by Jeff Lemire featuring Batman being lured into a trap set by a very unlikely foe who knows him better than anyone else . . . In the second, Jonathan Larsen and artist J.G. Jones write a story about Batman facing off against Amazo, the android that has the powers of every single member of the Justice League.  Essentially it boils down to whether or not the Dark Knight can take out his super-powered colleagues singlehandedly.  The final yarn is told by Tom Taylor with art by Nicola Scott, involving Batman proactively preventing crimes, or at least one, from happening.  This one I thought was funny in a meta way, as the author, Tom Taylor, shares a name with a character in the INCREDIBLE Vertigo series, The Unwritten.  In this author Tom Taylor writes about a character named Mike Carey, who shares his name with the writer of the series . . . The Unwritten.  Either a real Tom Taylor is having a laugh, or Mike Carey is writing under a pseudonym.  This little joke was in the back of my mind the whole time I read this piece.  All together these three delivered a sensational anthology that makes me curious if the momentum and ingenuity will continue throughout the other issues.
  • Smallville Season 11 #6 features a protracted first meeting of the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader.  Following Batman’s incursion into his city, an influx of Gotham personalities also make appearances in this title which include Mister Freeze and Joe Chill for starters.  The interactions between Batman and Superman seem to be very “realistic”, as such a term can apply.  Bruce enters with a plethora of countermeasures in place to pin down Superman if needs be, and Clark is, as ever, willing to believe the best in everyone, and when his back is up against a wall negotiates with the unruly Gotham vigilante to deescalate the situation.  The two then fall into a quintessential “World’s Finest” relationship.  I very much look forward to seeing what Bryan Q. Miller has in store for both men in the Smallville universe.

This week had a lot of winners in my book, from established books like Action Comics and Green Lantern to new titles like Legends of the Dark Knight. Action Comics #13  is the winner of the week, with the most moving story to date in that title.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #13:  Art by Travel Foreman, Colored by Brad Anderson

Green Lantern #13:  Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering

Swamp Thing #13: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Animal Man #13: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

Batwing #13: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Reber, Inked by Ryan Winn, Richard Zajac, Le Beau Underwood

G.I. Combat #5: Art by Howard Chaykin, Colored by Jesus Aburtov

 

Week 53 (Sept. 5, 2012)

This first week of September marks the first week of the second year of DC’s “New 52” initiative.  With that in mind, DC decided to commemorate this hallmark with a “Zero Month”, numbering all their ongoing series at #0 and telling an origin or new beginning of each.  For me, this week was purely a DC week.  None of the other imprints released issues of series I read, so this first week of “Zero Month” is purely DC.  So here goes:

  • Action Comics #0 tells a very straightforward yarn about Superman’s first days in Metropolis: his alluded to visit to the shirt press for 200 blue S-shirts, his first day at the Metropolis Daily Star, his first tangle with the Metropolis crimeboss, Glen Glenmorgan, his first sighting by Jimmy and Lois, and an examination of what really makes him or anyone super.  The last part pertains to a kid that comes across his fallen cape and what the boy does with it.  Though its not mind bending like a lot of his work, Grant Morrison does put a really thought provoking twist on the seemingly mundane opening shots of Superman’s early career.  Also in a stunning one page panel, he and artist Ben Oliver do an homage to the Joe Shuster cover page of the 1938 Action Comics #1, that first introduced Superman to the world.  This part of the main story really resonated with me as a comic book geek.  And as with all Action Comics issues, Sholly Fisch provides a quick backup feature that gives a background on not only Adam Blake, but also the character Erik Drekken, of whom we got a brief glimpse in Action Comics #7. All in all, a really great first issue to usher in the Zero Month at DC.

    Morrison and Oliver’s Reworking of the Iconic Action Comics #1 Cover Image


  • Detective Comics #0 features the final issue of the title to be drawn by Tony Daniel (at least in the foreseeable future) and has, for one issue only, Batman: The Dark Knight scribe Gregg Hurwitz at the helm.  Chronicling Bruce Wayne’s training in the orient, Hurwitz has Bruce train with a Zen master in Tibet and learn possibly the most depressing lesson imaginable.  Beyond that, there is little else to be said, except READ IT and find out.  As with Action Comics above, Detective features a backup feature, and this one comes from Batman cowriter, James Tynion IV, with the help of the liney artwork of Henrik Jonsson.  Alfred Pennyworth has been waiting for years, hoping against all hope that his ersatz son and ward, Bruce Wayne, will reappear after several years of speculation that he has died somewhere far away.  The struggle to hold on, not only to the hope of his being alive, but also to the legacy and inheritance that he is custodian of is harrowing, as this story shows.  But the faithful servant’s fidelity warms the hearts of readers and provides a really uplifting bookend to the depression of the first half of the issue.

    Lesson Learned

  • Green Lantern #0, contrary to my expectations, was not a disappointment.  This could be for several reasons.  Firstly, the new GL comes from my own backyard, Dearborn, Michigan, a hop, skip, and a jump from Flint, where I hail from.  Secondly, they tie him into the larger issue of Islamaphobia and anti-Arab mentality that is hotwired in most ignorant American minds.  Thirdly, its just F***ING GOOD!!!  Geoff Johns is hit or miss with me.  He has swung at NOTHING in so many things he’s doing right now.  This issue and the character it introduces is a line drive down center.  This character, though brand new, feels like a Green Lantern.  Can’t wait till Green Lantern #13 in October.  Awesome job, Geoff, and welcome back Doug Mahnke!
  • Swamp Thing #0 rewrites Swamp Thing history, introducing Anton Arcane right off the bat as someone far older and more immediately sinister than he was in the original Wein/Wrightson run in the 1970’s.  But true to Scott Snyder style, he has taken the cast of characters and reinvented them to fit into the frame of a fresh, innovative premise.  Here Arcane has been a perennial foe of the avatars of life: the Swamp Thing of the Green and the  Animal Man of the Red.  As far back as 1895 Arcane has been on the hunt as avatar of the Rot. Whereas in the original series by Len Wein, Alec Holland was turned into Swamp Thing by sheer luck or misfortune, depending on how you want to look at it, here he was selected from birth by the Parliament of Trees to be not only the new Swamp Thing, but the warrior king avatar that had been prophesied for centuries.  This is why the “accident” is initiated by Arcane, but contrary to how it came out in the original run, this accident poses problems to the fulfillment of his destiny as avatar of the Green.   The issue is written well, obviously, being penned by Scott Snyder, but it is also drawn exceptionally well by artist, Kano.  When I saw that someone other than the three staple artists of Swamp Thing was doing this issue I was a little pissed, but now, as has happened numerous times in the past, I have to eat crow, because his artwork is stunning.  I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.

    Kano’s artwork reminiscent of Paquette and Rudy’s Panels


  • Earth 2 #0 was very good, albeit confusing.  Told from the perspective of Terry Sloane, better known to DC readers as the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, as well as staple JSA member.  We saw him briefly in issue #3 meeting his Earth 1 counterpart, Michael Holt.  This issue not only gives him the spotlight, but also fills in his role in the history and hierarchy of Earth 2.  Sloane existed as one of Earth 2’s eight heroes during the Apokalips Invasion.  He went by the name Mr. 8, the meaning of which I don’t get.  Also, as his first appearance in the series suggested, he is much more sinister than in previous incarnations.  When he shows his true colors in this zero issue, turning on the Trinity for what he deems “the good of the Earth” he states that to ensure victory he needs Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to survive.  They died in the first issue, and yet as he narrates this issue from the present looking back, he still thinks that his plan has succeeded.  They are dead.  We saw them die.  So what the hell is he talking about?  Good issue topically, but too cryptic for my taste.
  • Speaking of Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest #0 focuses on that same world’s two junior members, Helena Wayne, aka Robin, and Kara Zor-El, aka Super Girl.  We’ve seen them as Huntress and Power Girl in both Earth 2 #1 and the first four issues of this series, but now we get to see their geneses in their roles as young superheroes.  Helena, the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman, growing up a strong, confident young woman, amalgam of both her parent’s characteristics, meets her first great tragedy.  Kara, last daughter of a doomed homeworld, lives with her cousin on their adoptive new world which itself stands on the brink of annihilation by the incurring forces of Apokalips, and yearns to break out of his protective bubble and lend her skills toward averting another world’s destruction.  Paul Levitz writes these two young women really well, showing both their overwhelming frustration and youthful exuberance.  One thing that the first four issues of this series did well was show the strength and depth of their friendship, and this zero issue shows the tying of their fates together in a very touching manner.

    Even When Your Parents Are Superheroes They Can Still Embarrass You

  • Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 brings Laurie into direct conflict with Gurustein and the mysterious “Chairman”, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain blue eyed crooner.  The Comedian also makes his first significant appearance in Lauries life, whether she knows it or not, at the behest of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter. Darwyn Cooke writes a really psychedelic story that Amanda Conner draws exceptionally well.  Drug overdoses, orgies, waking up naked in a hospital morgue. What else do you need from a story?  With one more issue, this series is at a its fever point.
  • Green Arrow #0, like the other issues written by Ann Nocenti, is a fantastic issue, but also a good origin story.  Green Arrow’s marooning on the remote island and honing his bowmanship is already a well known story done to death.  Nocenti eschews this tale, hinting at it towards the end, but offering something very different, focusing on a fresh episode of failure that lent itself to his later commitment to being better than he was and atoning for his many sins.  It also ties in the character of Merlyn in a very prototypical stage, giving a reason for his later enmity toward the Emerald Archer.  Nocenti tries to tie in a Roy Harper intro, but nothing really comes of that two page segment, so I’m not sure what was meant to be accomplished there.  Also, I am not usually a fan of Freddie Williams II’s art work, but here it wasn’t so obnoxious and really suited the overall atmosphere and genre of the book. Overall, a great zero issue for a character that floundered badly when it first was released a year ago.
  • Phantom Stranger #0  marks the first regular issue of Phantom Stranger since the late 80’s.  Writer Dan Didio (along with Geoff Johns and several others, no doubt) have him as Judas Iscariot.  They have quashed rumors of this since Free Comic Book Day this past May, but while they don’t come right out and say it in the story, it’s him.  Thirty pieces of silver he has to wear around his neck, his suicide, betraying his best friend, being returned home to a desert-like landscape that bears a striking resemblance to the Levant?  Its friggin’ Judas, quit being assholes and just admit it!  Judged by a council of Wizards on the Rock of Eternity, he and two others are cursed for their incredible crimes against humanity with individualized penances.  Phantom Stranger is cursed to walk the earth, a stranger to all, and forced to intercede in events by an enigmatic voice.  By issue’s end, the horror of what his interventions will do is made clear, showing how the punishment does fit the crime.  Didio is a great writer and this series has a great amount of promise. Artist Brent Anderson delivers lush artwork that has soft, hazy lines that suit the mysterious atmosphere of the book and really set the mood.  With a solicitation for next issue at the end, eliciting only the name “Trigon” I am riveted for what is to come.
  • Batwing #0 shows an episode in Batwing, aka David Zavimbe’s, life that has as of yet remained untold.  We know that he and his little brother, Isaac, were child soldiers in the mercenary group, the Army of Dawn.  We know that he was picked up by Batman as the African representative of the International organization, Batman Incorporated.  Between his rescue from the AOD and his inception as Batwing, there is very little known.  This issue shows the guilt fueled rage that eats at David’s soul after he enters the relief shelter for war refugees and the events that forge his resolve as an adult to take up arms once again, fighting a crusade of his choosing that eventually brings him to the attention of Batman.  With this issue all the pertinent parts of David’s history are fully chronicled, giving us a comprehensive understanding of his entire history.  Grant Morrison may have created the character, but I think that Batwing will forever belong to Judd Winick, who wrote him for the first time as a fully fleshed out character.
  • Animal Man #0 was definitely written in tandem with Swamp Thing #0, because writer Jeff Lemire does what Scott Snyder did, beginning with Anton Arcane tracking down a previous avatar,  this one an Animal Man (Avatar of the Red) and dispatching him.  Whereas the Parliament of Trees put their hopes on an avatar to come, Alec Holland, the Parliament of Limbs decide to be more proactive and create a new avatar in anticipation of the next who will be born years from that moment.  The avatar they create just happens to be the next scheduled avatar’s father, Buddy Baker.  His inception as the new Animal Man and what that foretells is a well plotted zero issue that makes Animal Man that much more intriguing.

    Death of an Animal Man

  • Dial H #0 takes us out of the present for a jaunt back to Ancient Mesopotamia and the maiden voyage of the first dial.  In the pre-bronze age civilization, the dial is as analogue as it gets, being merely a sundial like device, using the Sun’s rays as the triggering mechanism and the dial itself, a monolithic slab, having to be manual rotated to dial.  The operator, Laodice, over the course of four days manipulates the dial to evoke a myriad of powers to counter an ancient beast that plagues her people.  The origin of the dial is a mystery, even to Laodice, but writer China Mieville fleshes out a facet of its usage in this issue that not only doubles the question of its origins (along with its rotary successors), but also what the consequences of its usages in the modern stories are.  In a series already rife with insane twists and turns, this zero issue throws a major curve ball to the overall plot.

    The First Dial

  • G.I. Combat #0 was framed in an interesting manner.  The main segment, as evinced by the cover, features the Unknown Soldier.  The story picks up from last issue’s ending point, but validates itself as a zero issue by having the mysterious Kamal subjecting the Unknown Soldier, a former financial trader whose family was killed in a terrorist bombing on a train in London and who turned mercenary in Afghanistan when no military would accept him, to a mind altering drug that would open his subconscious to past experiences.  Despite being born in the seventies, he has vivid memories backed up by historic record of Vietnam, Korea, the American Civil War, Revolutionary War, as well as several Medieval and Greco-Roman conflicts.  How is this?  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray find a way of revealing who and what the Unknown Soldier is while keeping pace with the past four issues.  The War That Time Forgot segment ends the issue and also concludes itself as well, marking the end of this story, which will be succeeded by The Haunted Tank, which will be penned by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  This one, however, is in no way an origin story.  Its more of an epilogue to the last installment, ending the arc with really no significance.  I love JT Krul as a writer, but this story he told didn’t say or do anything.  American G.I.’s going to North Korea find, instead of a belligerent Communist army, a raging horde of dinosaurs.  That’s it.  They find this seemingly impossible situation and almost everyone dies.  I hope the Haunted Tank offers better literary fare.

The Origin of the Unknown

  • Night Force #7 concludes the miniseries featuring the third incarnation of the Night Force headed by Baron Winter, and written by creator Marv Wolfman.  Zoe has been captured by the demonic progenitors and it falls to Det. Jim Duffy to save her.  With this last issue out, the MVP of the series is hands down Jim Duffy.  Despite all his blustering and posturing, Baron Winter really doesn’t do anything worth speaking about.  His arrogance is what prompted the problems that assail the Night Force in the first place and Det. Duffy is really the one who both plans and orchestrates the events that resolve the situation.  He captures the Harvester, breaks into the gestation chamber, and pulls the metaphoric trigger on the demon breeders plan.  That said, Jim Duffy and Sela Greene, aka Mad Kassandra, are the two characters that really advance the plot and their clashing was a scene that made this issue and the six previous well worth the read.  The conclusion is twisted, nightmarish, and bloody, which makes me give it a thumbs up to anyone with a taste for the macabre.
  • Smallville Season 11 #5  accomplishes something I was waiting for in the series when it was on TV: the advent of the Batman.  Done in a very unique way that is synonymous with “Smallville” in general, Batman is shown busting up an Intergang arms deal with the help of protege, Nightwing . . . who is a red haired young woman!  Obviously since Nightwing has boobs, its not Dick.  I won’t spoil the identity of Batman’s sidekick, but if you are as good of a detective as the Bat, you should be able to ascertain who she is under the mask.  As a bonus hint to those who know me, I am always excited to see this character, regardless of the circumstances.  In the continuing plot of Smallville, though, Clark continues to work toward finding a way to purge the radioactive isotope Lex implanted in him so that LexCorp satellites can monitor his movements 24/7, while at the same time dealing with the strain that puts on his relationship with fiancee, Lois Lane.  It does leave him with more time to dedicate to civic vigilance and crisis aversion.  But with the Dark Knight descending on Metropolis with his sights on a singular task, Superman has a lot more to worry about than armed gunmen and impending traffic accidents.

And that ends the first week of “Zero Month.”  I thoroughly enjoyed all that I read.  Can’t wait for the next three weeks worth of issues.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #0:  Art by Ben Oliver, Colored by Brian Reber

Detective Comics #0:  Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Richard Friend

Swamp Thing #0: Art by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Worlds’ Finest #0: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Animal Man #0: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

Dial H #0: Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie

G.I. Combat #0: Art by Staz Johnson, Colored by Rob Schwager

Week 47 (July 25, 2012)

  • Green Lantern #11 is seemingly the beginning of the end.  Black Hand has re-died and become a Black Lantern once again.  Hal and Sinestro have left Nok and inexorably are drawn to the evil he exudes.  After this issue there is one regular issue and the Green Lantern Annual before a new Green Lantern is chosen.  Whether this means Hal is going to die or not is equally up in the air.  Though it seems that way, considering that the cover of that annual features a design reminiscent of the famous “Death of Superman” issue from the 90’s, I have a feeling that its all a gambit and both Hal and Sinestro are going to dodge the bullet and simply play dead.  But then again, Geoff Johns is getting a pretty big head, and may feel that “what Johns giveth, he taketh away.”  Since he brought Hal back from the dead, he may feel that its within his right to kill him again.  We’ll see.

    Shadows of Green Lantern Future . . .

  • Taking a cue from Grant Morrison’s Action Comics, Flash #11 has the Scarlet Speedster killing off his civilian identity, Barry Allen, and creating a new life under a pseudonym in a rough part of town.  Taking a job at a bar frequented by the Rogues, he has a better scope of how and where his villains’ attacks will come.  As with its predecessors, this issue features the introduction of a new Rogue.  This month Heatwave makes his New DC debut and his newest iteration is pretty intense.  Whereas in the past he was a tough guy with flamethrowers, he is now a scarred monstrosity that generates flame at will from his body, just as the new Captain Cold can generate ice and freezing effects from his hands.  Once again Marcus To is providing art, which though good, is still no substitute for the art of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.
  • Aquaman #11 has the Atlantian king reuniting with the last of the surviving members of the “Others” whom he fought alongside in his past.  Black Manta had been tracking them all down and killing them for the artifacts of old Atlantis that they possessed which could give him power.  What power?  The power to find another artifact that even Aquaman didn’t know existed.  The importance of this lost artifact directly pertains to a question that many have asked for centuries.  This is an issue that will define the series and the character for sometime, me thinks.
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #11 may be the winner of the week.  This issue showcases the genocidal beginnings of Invictus’ evil plans, the confrontation of the New Guardians against Larfleeze, and the revelation of the true “Ring Thief” whose mischief ushered in this who plotline almost a full year ago.  The New Guardians have grown so much in the past year and as characters, blossomed into some of the best characters in the New DCU.  That is my opinion anyhow.  Through solicitations it is obvious that this first year is merely an opening salvo, and the ride of these seven warriors is almost up.  Some of them will endure to the next year, but several will not see the start of the next phase.  If this issue and next month’s is to be their swansong, then sing on Tony Bedard.  I’ve enjoyed what you’ve done with these lanterns and will continue to read the book for what you have in store next.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #11 was beautiful, but not a lot happened.  The Scarecrow continues his insane escapades, abducting children and dosing them with his fear toxin for as of yet an undisclosed reason.  There is a slight clue in a background story of Crane’s childhood, but again the exposition is rather vague.  What does strike the reader is David Finch’s incredible artwork.  Gotta love it.  Whatever you say about the plots, which when he ws writing weren’t that bad, his art is top notch.  I will say, however, that when he was writing he plots were framed a lot more interestingly.  That is my opinion and I humbly submit it as such.
  • Fury of Firestorm #11 brings the series close to the close of its first arc and its first year.  Jason Rusch and Firehawk go to Russia and learn some disturbing things about Pozhar, the Russian Firestorm.  In Pakistan, Ronnie sees the sinister nature of the master Firestorm for himself as Pozhar’s Cold War, Darwinian experimentations advance to the detriment of many around him.  Ashra Khan has yet to show, but somehow I am wondering if Pozhar isn’t Ashra.  It would certainly explain a great deal.  The Joe Harris/Ethan Van Sciver written series is ending after September’s #0 issue, with Dan Jurgens coming onboard both as artist and writer on issue #13 in October.
  • Teen Titans #11 brings us to an arc showcasing that explores the character of Wonder Girl, aka Cassandra Sandsmark.  Her powers come from mystic armor that she absconded with that has bonded itself to her person.  This issue show just how closely bonded.  Starting with a full page shot of her locked in  bathroom with spikes pushing their way out of her flesh, we see that there is something very draconian going on with it.  Cut to later when she herself goes over the edge when fighting an adversary that has invaded the group’s New York hideaway.  Also introduced is an enigmatic figure integrally tied to Wonder Girl’s past and the armor she wears.  Once again, writer Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth hit it out of the park and write a engrossing comic that pushes its characters to their limits of their potential.

    What It Means To Wear The Armor

  • Superman #11 was . . .  something.  In the land of Clark Kent he goes on a double date with Lois and her boyfriend, Jonathan Carroll, with Lois’ little sister, Lucy, as his date. Sort of.  It advances innocent trouble and drama in his civilian life, but in his superhero life, things get a little weird when he goes to Russia after the contents of a submarine he saved breaks loose. Trying to get their own extraterrestrial superman like America’s, the Russians found . . . a Predator.  I am serious.  Writer/artist Dan Jurgens has Superman fighting a predator, complete with two pronged punching dagger, dreadlocks, metal mask with glowing eyes and crazy tribal things.  Seriously, read the issue and see what I am talking about.  Where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover failed, Supes . . . might also fail.

    That’s . . . That’s a Predator . . .

  • All-Star Western #11 brings the two Gotham cabals, the Court of Owls and the Religion of Crime, to direct confrontation.  It had to happen at some point. And as ever, caught in the middle is Jonah Hex, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, and now Tallulah Black.  The Court of Owls is pretty straightforward.  They are, as ever, affluent men and women living in opulence wearing owl masks.  They are like that in our time, they were like that in the 1880’s.  The Religion of Crime, however, is quite a different matter, because they do not hide their identities.  With that in mind, the five Lords of Crime are perhaps the best part of the issue as they themselves are very disparate characters embodying the various disciplines of villainy.  In the backup feature we are introduced to Dr. Terrence Thirteen.  The Thirteens have shown up in modern times, but to my knowledge this is the first incarnation that existed in the 19th century.  A man of science, he cuts a very similar figure to Sherlock Holmes looking pragmatically at the supernatural occurances of the Old West to not only solve crimes, but debunk superstition, the latter of which being his primary motive.  Once again an incredible issue from three masters: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat.  Guest artist, Scott Kolins does a good job too on the backup.

    The Lords of Crime

  • National Comics: Eternity is a oneshot comic by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Cully Hammer that introduces readers to the character of Kid Eternity in this New DCU era.  This appears to be the first of several oneshots designated National Comics, the original name of DC back in the 1930’s.  In this incarnation, Kid Eternity is no longer killed in a U-Boat attack, but rather a gangland drive by shooting.  He does return to the power set of recalling the dead to the realm of the living in ghost form for the purpose of justice.  This issue is interesting to read as it is both a return to a classic character’s origin, but also a redux.
  • The New Deadwardians #5 takes us to the English countryside to see how the gentry live in this England plagued by the Restless hordes (zombies).  The basic setup of English culture and politics of the day are permeated by this issue.  Young women are apparently not allowed to take “the cure” (vampirism) until they are married, and only if their husband allows, which is a hot button issue in the Women’s Sufferage movement.  Also English fox hunts and pheasant shoots have been replaced by hunting the random Restless for sport.  And all the while the keynote issue of the series, the murder of a Youth (vampire) without the use of the three methods leads police inspector George Suttle further into this strange subculture.  I hate zombies, but I love this series.  Downton Abbey meets Walking Dead.
  • American Vampire #29 is just awesome.  Going into the second chapter of the “Black List” arc, Scott Snyder sends Agents Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet of the Vassals of the Morningstar against a secret coven of vampires that have nested in Hollywood during the infamous McCarthy trials of the early 50’s.  Full of action and intrigue there is little I can reveal about the plot that wouldn’t ruin it.  I will say that many assertions are made about the characters and what dark fates lie in store for each.  Also, Skinner’s survival after being shot by Pearl in WWII with a golden bullet is disclosed for the first time.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern #11: Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Tony Avina & Alex Sinclair, Inked by Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin & Doug Mahnke

Aquaman #11: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Jonathan Glapion & Andy Lanning

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #11: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino, Inked by BATT

Teen Titans #11: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Superman #11: Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Colored by Hi-Fi & The Hories, Inked by Jesus Merino, Vincente Cifuntes & Rob Hunter

All-Star Western #11: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh